A.K.A. Vegetarians' Steak Night!
Don't get me wrong, I love going out for a good steak, and indulging in all the delicious sides that come with, like a loaded baked potato and pale, creamy spinach. But at home, a full course steak night isn't always practical in terms of both budget and arteries. But mostly budget. Also, I am a sucker for making things out of cauliflower. Pizza crust, rice, "mashed potatoes", "alfredo sauce", you name it, I've probably tried it. And now I've finally gone for the carnivorous jugular with these "steaks".
Let's get something out of the way right now. No, these do not in any way taste like, look like, or replace meat. I'm not claiming that, but since they do replace the main portion of this meal, and they are cut into slab-like portions, I'm calling them steaks and you can't stop me. Besides, cauliflower "disks" sounds ridiculous.
Call them what you will, but these cauliflower steaks are buttery, smoky, tender, and yummy, and the caramelized, almost charred shallots on the side add a sweetness that really pairs well with the cauliflower. The whole method for making the "steaks" might seem a bit involved for veggies, but I really think it gives them something special that you wouldn't get from just a little olive oil and half an hour in the oven.
Can we talk about the spinach now? Waaaaay back in 2009 I read an interview with Michelle Obama where she talked about the healthy meals being served at the White House and a creamless creamed spinach that was one of her favorite dishes, and The New York Times published a recipe for it. I was trying to think of something good to go with the cauliflower, and I remembered the spinach, thinking it was perfect for the whole "healthier steak night" theme I have going on here*. And this spinach is amazing. It's creamy without feeling heavy, a perfect summer side for these cauliflower steaks or any grill night. I spiked mine with some grated parmesan, and I didn't regret it.
*Uh, minus all the butter in the cauliflower...
This whole meal is great in individual parts or served all together, but no matter if you go for just the cauliflower or just the spinach or you make yourself a feast, just be happy knowing you have zero chance of getting the meat sweats.
Cauliflower Steaks with Roasted Shallots and "Creamed" Spinach
If making all three parts, it is best to start with the shallots, then the cauliflower, then the spinach. I have given directions based on this assumption. There are a lot of moving parts here, but the shallots take care of themselves once they are in the oven, same with the cauliflower, and the spinach takes approximately 5 minutes to come together, so it's all very manageable. Just read the recipe through first and have everything prepped and ready to go before you begin!
For the Cauliflower Steaks:
1 large head cauliflower or 2 small
1 tbs paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 stick butter, cut into cubes
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled
flaky sea salt
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
For the Roasted Shallots:
8 shallots, cut in half lenghtwise, unpeeled
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
For the "Creamed" Spinach:
1 lb baby spinach
1 lb frozen, chopped spinach, at room temp
2 tbs olive oil
4 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper,
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
- Prep the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine paprika, cumin, mustard, a few grounds of pepper, and 1 tbs olive oil in a small bowl. Cut the cauliflower from top down through the root into 1/2 inch steaks. You should be able to get at least 2 or 3 per head until the cauliflower breaks down around the edges. Rub the cauliflower steaks on both sides with the spice mixture and then toss any loose florets in the remaining spice mixture. Set aside.
- Make the shallots: On a large baking sheet, toss the shallots with the olive oil and thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Lay cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes.
- While the shallots are roasting, heat the remaining 2 tbs olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat (it might get smoky). Working with 2 steaks at a time, sear the cauliflower for 2 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat to medium low, add a portion of the butter, herbs and garlic (look at how many steaks you have, and divide accordingly based on how many repititions of step 3 you need to do). Baste the cauliflower in the melted butter for 1-2 minutes more (be very careful not to burn the butter, if using a cast iron pan, you may need to take it off the heat for this step), then transfer steaks to a baking sheet, reserve butter and herb mixture in a small bowl, and repeat process with remaining steaks.
- When all steaks are seared and transferred to baking sheet, top with reserved garlic and herbs and some of the melted browned butter. Add to the oven with the shallots and roast for 15 minutes more.
- While cauliflower is roasting, make the spinach. Puree half of the chopped (defrosted) spinach to a food processor and puree. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots and garlic until translucent, then add the rest of the chopped spinach and the baby spinach. Toss and saute the spinach until wilted, and then fold in the pureed spinach. Season with salt and pepper and finish with the parmesan.
- When cauliflower and shallots are done, remove from the oven and drizzle both with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle the cauliflower with some flaky sea salt. Serve both with the spinach for the complete experience.