It seems like almost overnight people have discovered that cooking cruciferous vegetables with high heat is the way to go. The method in this recipe, like that for crispy Brussels sprouts, brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable. If you’ve never cooked a vegetable this way, this dish is a great introduction.
Cauliflower roasted on its own is very mild and sweet, so I like to balance it out with the deep flavors of anchovy and garlic and with some chile flakes for spice. The bread crumbs are added for texture and for an element of crunch at the end.
Fully preheat the pan to sear the surface of the cauliflower quickly. If you place a cold pan full of vegetables in the broiler, they’ll end up steaming rather than crisping up into that beautiful caramelized state you’re looking for.
- ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (from about 8 fillets)
- ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 heads cauliflower, trimmed of their greens and cored
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 0.125 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup panfried coarse bread crumbs
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Place an empty baking sheet on the oven rack positioned two rungs from the top and preheat the broiler to scalding hot, at least 10 minutes.
- In a small jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, combine 3 tablespoons of the oil, the garlic paste, anchovy paste, chile flakes, and lemon zest. Shake well and set aside.
- Cut the cauliflower heads into ½- to ¾-inch slices (don’t worry about the little irregular pieces that break off; they will get a nice char). In your largest mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower with the remaining ⅔ cup oil and the salt and pepper. This may look like an excessive amount of cauliflower, but it cooks down significantly.
- Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the broiler (use a double layer of kitchen towels or oven mitts). Place half of the cauliflower across the pan in an even layer. It’s important not to crowd the cauliflower on the pan or it will steam instead of sear. If your baking sheet is not large enough, you may have to sear the cauliflower in three batches. Return the pan to the broiler and cook the cauliflower for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, to allow color to develop. The cauliflower is ready when the smaller pieces look caramelized and charred and the larger pieces have dark brown caramelized edges. Place the first batch of cauliflower in a bowl and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
- Once all of the cauliflower has been caramelized, toss it with the garlic-anchovy paste, breaking up any lumps of paste so it is evenly distributed, and return the whole batch to the baking sheet. Return the cauliflower to the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until any raw garlic flavor is gone. Toss the cauliflower with the bread crumbs and parsley and serve family-style.