Buffalo Cauliflower is Way More Awesome Than You’d Think

Freshly coated in buffalo sauce

Recently, I have awoken to the wonders of cauliflower. This unassuming, all-white, brain-resembling vegetable is a lot more versatile than you might immediately expect. It’s fine raw and in salads, but when cooked its texture and flavor come out beautifully. It’s surprisingly creamy! Give it a little love in the form of seasoning and preparation, and it’s outstanding: cauliflower mac and cheese, cauliflower and cheese patties,  mashing cauliflower up like mashed potatoes. Combining it with a long-time obsession of mine–buffalo sauce–was inevitable.

Buffalo sauce is amazing. It damn well should be, it’s just hot sauce and butter! Like most food things though, it’s the interplay that’s so satisfying; the butter is heavy and fatty, which is cut by the bright acidity of the cayenne pepper sauce while at the same time rounding out the cayenne’s edges. I’ve been obsessed with it since my first boneless buffalo wing (although I have seen the light and realize that BONE IN is the way to go), and will jump at the chance to put it on anything. Ever had buffalo sauce in chili? It’s awesome. Clam chowder? Yum.

But my first major run-in with a non-chicken application of buffalo sauce was of the healthifying, vegetarianising variety: buffalo tofu. Which, it turns out, is also great! Tofu is one of those things that if you treat it right, will deliver. It’s become somewhat of a staple for us in the home kitchen. Cut a block into slices, season them and flour & breadcrumb them, give them a good fry and then coat away! Great stuff.

But could there be more? What else could be improved by slathering it in buffalo sauce?

This is how we got to the buffalo cauliflower: was that an actual thing? A Google search revealed that yes, it indeed was a thing. As it would turn out, a glorious thing!

There are lots of recipes out there, but our general conclusion was that all you really need is a batter that is equal parts milk and flour, some cauliflower and buffalo sauce.

Battered and awaiting the pan

Battered and awaiting the pan

For about half a head of cauliflower, a 1/2 cup flour and a 1/2 cup milk seemed to be just enough. Chop the cauliflower up into bite-sized bits, but not too small. You don’t want this to crisp up all the way into oblivion when frying.

I would opine that if you wanted to be a little extra fancy, you might consider an egg yolk or two in the batter, and then a coating of panko flakes for the battered cauliflower. That won’t be shown here, but it’s an idea for next time.

Before battering, put somewhere around 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of  peanut oil in a cast-iron skillet or dutch oven, heating it over medium heat. You can use canola too, but I find peanut oil to give the food a light, pleasant flavor that doesn’t get in the way. Also, peanut oil has a high smoke point (i.e. it takes a lot of heat for it to start producing smoke) which makes it ideal for frying. Don’t use olive oil unless you would like a visit from the fire department.

Battering is simple: dump your equal parts flour and milk together into a bowl, then whisk until combined and sufficiently gooey. Make sure to work out any lumps. Then in batches of handfuls or so, coat the cauliflower in the batter and set aside. After battering I sprinkled a generous amount of paprika and some salt and pepper, because seasoning.

Now go back to your still-heating skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and plop those suckers in there.

They look a little lonely

They look a little lonely

The oil should be hot enough that the cauliflower bits immediately start to sizzle.

Now it's a party!

Now it’s a party!

Make sure that enough of the cauliflower gets its turn being immersed in the hot oil (though this won’t be as much of a problem if you’ve got a dutch oven or deep fryer and can totally immerse your bits. Hehe…bits.) This means flipping and moving the bits around during the cooking process. I will often bunch them up in one side of the pan and give it a little incline to get fuller immersion, but that’s probably not stupendously safe. Just be careful. You don’t want to burn down your house in an apocalyptic grease fire because you sneezed and dumped a pan full of cooking oil onto your medium-high gas flame. Like I said, you could also use a dutch oven or even a stock pot to completely avoid this risk, but where’s the thrill in that? As usual, you’re going for a golden-brown crispiness throughout.

Ooh...getting crispy.

Ooh…getting crispy.

Once they’re sufficiently golden-brown and crispy on all sides, it’s a good time to take them out and leave them on a paper towel that you’ve put on a plate.

Just about ready for the sauce!

Just about ready for the sauce!

The easiest way to coat these things is to put your buffalo sauce in medium-largish, wide metal bowl. You’ll want the sauce to coat the sides a bit.

Sauce in a bowl, or modern art?

Sauce in a bowl, or modern art?

Working with a few bits at a time, toss them into the bowl and, if you’re fancy, give it a few flips of the wrist to coat them. If you would rather not risk your delicious fried cauliflower becoming less-delicious floor cauliflower, you can just move them around in the sauce with tongs.

Buffaloed!!

And that’s pretty much it! I would recommend serving them with a nice creamy blue cheese sauce for dipping/drenching, depending on how you feel about moldy cheeses.

With some left-over mashed potatoes. Why not?

With some left-over mashed potatoes. Why not?

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