Recipe: Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Yesterday I took a trip down to visit my friends at Fortitude Farms CSA to pick up fresh winter produce for my house.  I was alerted that there was plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce (all my favorite things!), so I was very excited to stock up.

While we were out in the fields, tasting new lettuces and harvesting some broccoli, I looked down and noticed a giant, beautiful cauliflower.  Assuming that she knew about it, I pointed it out to the farmer, Mary Jean, to praise its glory.  She started laughing immediately, saying the she already harvested all of the cauliflower, and must have missed one.  When she saw the size and beauty of it, she proclaimed that was the biggest cauliflower that she grew all year, and harvested it for me to take home.  Finders keepers, I guess!

This beauty of a cauliflower weighed in at 4.25 pounds and was probably bigger than my head, which was nothing short of impressive.  With that amount of heft, however, we couldn’t really fit it into the fridge, so we decided that roasted cauliflower was on the menu for dinner that night.  I wanted to treat this special harvest with the most respect I could, so I decided to whole roast it to show off its full beauty.  Cutting it up seemed sacrilegious to me, and considering this cauliflower was the size of a chicken, full roasting it like one just seemed so appropriate.  The result was a beautiful, golden brown, super tender on the inside, crusty and caramelized on the outside, glorious head of roasted cauliflower.

The recipe itself is pretty easy to make, although it does take some time and plenty of patience.  I started mine at around 4:00 for dinner at 6:00, so allow at least two hours for this process (smaller cauliflower heads would probably cook a little faster than this big one, though!).  It’s generally pretty hands off and the results are so impressive.  I would absolutely make this again for a holiday side or centerpiece when you want to feel festive but are also looking for something light.  I served mine with some fresh pesto for some herbal notes to brighten the golden, roasted notes of the cauliflower, and it was absolute heaven.  I’ll link some ideas for sauces to serve with this below.

Recipe down below, along with photos!  Timing and serving amount may depend on cauliflower size.  Between the two of us, we can usually polish off a head of cauliflower for dinner in one sitting, but we still had half of this one left (so, assume this one is about twice as large as a normal store-bought cauliflower).

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole head of cauliflower
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pesto or sauce of choice for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Place a heat-proof vessel (I used a Pyrex pie pan, any baking pan, loaf pan, or sheet pan will work here) filled with water on the bottom rack in the oven as it pre-heats to start to create steam.
  2. Remove any excess leaves from the base of the cauliflower, and use a pairing knife to (carefully) remove the bottom of the stem and some of the center core of the cauliflower, while using caution to keep the whole cauliflower intact (do not cut off any of the bottom florets).
  3. Rinse the cauliflower thoroughly, and place on a cast-iron pan (a sheet pan will also work here) while it’s still wet.  This will help create more steam as it cooks.
  4. Pour the olive oil generously over all of the cauliflower, and sprinkle with salt.  Rub the cauliflower thoroughly to make sure everything is fully coated in salt and oil, and place back in the center of the cast-iron pan.
  5. Place on the top rack of the oven at 375F until fully tender, browned, and cooked through (approximately 1-2 hours).  Check occasionally to check for tenderness and to be sure that there is enough water in the steam pan as it cooks (if it dries out, add more water and place it back in the oven).
  6. When the cauliflower has cooked through, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate and carve the florets for serving.  Top with pesto or sauce and enjoy!

Need some sauce inspiration?  Try these recipes!

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