Hunting Widow + RECIPE: Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter, Shallots & Parmesan

You guys this is embarrassing.

So my Carrot left for the weekend to hunt deer at his parents’ home over in the beautiful woods and rolling hills of Richland Center. We women in Wisconsin who are all too used to this inaugural opening day of deer hunting season when we are left to our own devices for maybe one, maybe two or maybe all nine days of deer season call ourselves the hunting widows.

It’s kind of dark I suppose (and I really hope I didn’t make anyone nervous with a title like that), but all it really means is that there is a whole crew of us Wisconsin wives who are left all alone when our significant others go off to play in the woods. Sometimes we hunting windows find each other over social media and get together to have Harry Potter marathons or bake cookies or something else very festive.

This year I didn’t seek out any of my fellow hunting widows. This year, I was so looking forward to some alone time in our new home. I really haven’t had more than a minute without my Carrot since we bought the house back in July. We do work together after all. Obviously none of this is very embarrassing. Wanting some time by oneself in a new home is totally normal. (It looks a lot like this ⇓)

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What is embarrassing is my reaction to being left alone for the weekend. On Friday night I returned home after work to an empty home and immediately turned into my childhood self, deciding I needed to set up camp in the living room. My Carrot is the adult in our relationship- the always responsible, always prompt, always saying no to my requests to set up our bedroom mattress in the living room type of human.

I on the other hand,  after being left alone for only two hours, learned I have more in common with a spiteful ten-year old than I previously thought because here I sit on my bedroom mattress in the middle of my living room floor (which was not easy to remove from our bedroom on the second floor, wind around two corners in the upstairs hallway and slide down the stairs all by myself without harming my body or our new home).

There’s a wool sleeping bag atop the plush ma ttress and two dogs and a cat sit beside me. Cookbooks are fanned out on the couch which is at the moment being treated much more like a desk than a couch. The coffee table has coffee, candy and a bottle of wine on it. If only my Carrot could see me now. Oh he would so not be pleased. But it’s perfect.

To counteract my childish ways, I would like to share with you a Thanksgiving dish that is anything but childish. This roasted cauliflower is emblematic of my more adult self and style of cooking. Composed and elegant, this is the kind of food I want to make and eat every day of the week. This is the dish I’m most excited to bring to the Thanksgiving table.

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Things begin simply with slowly roasted cauliflower. Simple roasted cauliflower is a thing of beauty all on it’s own. In a hot oven, the edges crisp and caramelize. Cauliflower’s inherent sweetness is reveled and the texture becomes smooth and almost silky. After being removed from the oven, cauliflower is tossed with a simple vinaigrette of brown butter and champagne vinegar. Suddenly the cauliflower isn’t only sweet, it’s nutty, rich and bright. Slowly caramelized shallots add yet another layer of depth. The dish is finished with a sprinkle of toasted pepitas and a generous amount of shaved Parmesan.

The end result has everything you could ever want in a Thanksgiving side dish. Decadence, beauty, simplicity, local in-season veggies. I’m in love.

Alright, see you later. I’ll just be here on the floor eating my big bowl of roasted cauliflower with brown butter, shallots and Parmesan!

Lots of silly solo Leek love to you all,
Leek

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH BROWN BUTTER, SHALLOTS & PARMESAN
If you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving or want to make this a few days ahead of time, this dish travels and stores well. The cauliflower can be roasted and tossed with the shallots and brown butter up to 48 hours in advance. For travel, keep the veggies warm in one of these fancy things or heat it up for 10-15 minutes in the oven upon arrival. Toast the pepitas and shave the Parmesan ahead of time but keep them in separate containers. When you are ready to eat, quickly toss the roasted veggies together with the pepitas and Parmesan.

Serves 8-10
Takes 50 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
3 average-sized heads cauliflower (or 2 large), cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 ounce shaved Parmesan
1/4 cup toasted pepitas, optional
Brown Butter Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large heavy skillet (cast-iron works great!), warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat. Add shallots and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes.
  3. Once oven is preheated, toss cauliflower with remaining olive oil, remaining Kosher salt and black pepper on two baking sheets. (You don’t want the cauliflower to be too crowded on the pan or it won’t roast properly). Bake for 30 minutes, removing half way through to rotate.
  4. Meanwhile, continue cooking the shallots until caramelized. Add butter whenever pan appears dry and keep cooking over medium-low heat until the shallots begin to brown slightly (about 10 minutes more). Add maple syrup and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until shallots are nicely and evenly browned. Set aside when finished.
  5. To prepare vinaigrette, begin by browning butter in a small skillet over medium heat. It will first melt, then foam and then begin to brown. Once you see a significant amount of browned bits at the bottom of the pan, remove from heat immediately. Add all other vinaigrette ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Toss with cauliflower in a large bowl. Add caramelized shallots. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference (you may need a touch more salt).
  6. When ready to serve, top with shaved Parmesan and toasted pepitas.

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