Cauliflower is quite the chameleon these days. You’ve seen it using its special powers pretending to be rice or pizza crust, potatoes, or even buffalo wings. With its low-carb virtue and mild flavor, cauliflower has become a popular substitute and proxy for deeply enjoyable dishes. You might think, then, that the cauliflower steak was created in the same spirit, by puritans seeking to separate you from your red meat. But the truth is that while, yes, cauliflower does make a fantastic substitute for an amazing variety of things, it can shine even more brightly when it’s flying solo in all its pure, unadulterated glory.
Now, nobody is ever going to confuse a slab of cauliflower with a slab of red meat, but don’t be surprised if cauliflower steak becomes your preferred cut when it comes to vegetables. Well-browned cauliflower is uniquely delicious, and slicing the vegetable like steak provides maximum surface area for caramelization. Furthermore, fully roasting the meaty stem confers a soft, creamy texture with the sweet earthiness of root vegetables like parsnip and rutabaga.
This recipe calls for cumin, with its distinctive woody pepperiness, to add some depth and complexity, but if cumin isn’t your thing, don’t let its presence here stop you from roasting these steaks. Go ahead and substitute, or just try the cauliflower on its own. You’ll likely be amazed at how much flavor and textural nuance can be revealed through such a simple preparation.
- 1 large head of cauliflower, with a stem at least 1 ½ inches in diameter
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
Preheat oven to 425F
Cut the cauliflower into two steaks: Make two thick slices that look like the silhouettes of trees, the trunks of which are longitudinal cross-sections of the cauliflower’s stem. Each steak will be about 3/4-inch thick, or one-half the diameter of the stem. Reserve the remaining cauliflower for another day, or roast it in the same manner as the steaks.
Drizzle the steaks generously with olive oil and season with salt on each side, put them in a large cast-iron pan or on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Check the steaks after about 15 minutes. When the pan-side of the steaks is well-browned, flip them over. Sprinkle the top of each steak with the cumin seeds and return them to the oven.
When both sides of the steaks are a deep golden color and the florets are sizzling at the ends and crispy, remove them from the oven, plate and serve immediately.