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Cauliflower

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Illustrations by John Burgoyne  

The vegetable that Mark Twain famously referred to as “nothing but cabbage with a college education” is best in fall and early winter, and just coming into profusion at the Greenmarket. The plant’s edible head is called “the curd,” and it can be found in white, orange, green, and even purple varieties. For this recipe, the Redhead’s chef-partner Meg Grace combines white and orange cauliflower in an elegant bread pudding enriched with cream and Gruyère cheese and spiced with nutmeg and Tabasco. It’s like bread pudding with a Ph.D.

Meg Grace’s Cauliflower Bread Pudding

1 head white cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 head orange cauliflower, cut into small florets (or substitute with white)
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 cup leeks, finely diced
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
2 ounces Gruyère
10 slices day-old brioche, crusts removed and medium diced
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Fresh nutmeg, to taste
Nonstick cooking spray

Blanch the cauliflower florets in small batches in 6 quarts of salted boiling water. (1) Shock in ice water and drain well. Reserve. In a sauté pan over low heat, cook the celery, leek, and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Preheat oven to 300. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks. (2) Using a Microplane, grate the Gruyère into the bowl. Add the cauliflower and the leek-celery-garlic mixture. Fold in the cubed bread (there should be significantly more cauliflower than bread), and let sit for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Mix well to distribute the vegetables evenly. Season the pudding with salt, cracked black pepper, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, and freshly grated nutmeg. Spray an 8-by-11-inch Pyrex pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. (3) Spread the pudding evenly into the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until just set in the center, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil, bake 10 more minutes to lightly brown the top. Serve, if desired, as Grace does at the Redhead: over a cauliflower purée and topped with a salad of mâche, tangerines, pickled cauliflower, and Asian pear in a rosemary vinaigrette.


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