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Roasted Cauliflower - Did I do something wrong?

The greenmarket has had these absolutely gorgeous heads of orange and purple cauliflower. I bought some and figured I'd try roasting it -- I always see that dish in the hot-prepared foods section of the market, but I've never made it myself. I quickly rinsed the head in cold water and cut it into florets. I tossed in a bowl with some extra virgin olive oil, slices of garlic, salt and pepper. I spread on a baking sheet and roasted at about 400 degrees.

So my question is this ... The cauliflower tasted good. It had dark carmelized spots on it (delicious!). But it was really soft. Almost like it had been steamed. I had expected more of a crunch to it. So I'm wondering if my expectations were off. Or if I did something wrong. Should I not have salted it (since salt brings out the liquid in vegetables)? Did I cook it too long? (I left it in until there were the nice brown spots; if I had taken it out earlier, it wouldn't have had that.) Did I not cook it at high enough temperature?

Your assistance/suggestions are, as always, greatly appreciated!

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  1. I love roasted cauliflower, make it all the time, and yes, it's soft. I guess you could try larger florets and/or another 25 degrees in temp, but if you cook it long enough to get those those scrumptious caramelized bits, which is after all what it's all about, it's going to be soft.

    9 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      I agree. Plus don't change the dressing you've used. It's very nice as is.. I do the very same thing!

      1. re: Gio

        Are you looking for them to be more al dente, or for them to have a crunchy outside? I get a crunchy outside by finishing them at around 450 for a few minutes. The other thing is that if they are packed in too tightly, they are going to steam each other. You need to make sure that the florets have enough room to roast.

        1. re: katecm

          Thanks to all of you. Yes, I was looking for a bit more "al dente" than soft. So next time I'll try that "finishing" idea. I had thought to spread them in one layer, so I did that part right. I guess it's just like everything else -- try it again until I find exactly the way I want it. Thanks again for the help. And by the way, I LOVE this way of making cauliflower. It really is fantastic.

          1. re: LNG212

            Roasting is the only way I'll eat cauliflower. Part of the appeal for me is the soft, almost creamy interior. I roast at 425 in convection mode, and it takes about 35-45 minutes to get it to the state I like it. But if you remove it sooner, you'll get more of the crunch you're looking for.

            1. re: TorontoJo

              You sound like my kids did once upon a time. Don't write off cauliflower. I agree that steamed can be boring, with cheese it just takes a little longer to get bored.
              Look for some recipes from Marcella Hazan, Alice Waters and others. There are some terrific Indian dishes too. It has lots of flavor partners.Try it with anchovies, tomato sauce, black olives, mushrooms, mussels, curry, bacon, nuts and lots of other things.

              1. re: MakingSense

                I recently bought some orange cauliflower at the farmer's market (made a JC soup that we were less than thrilled with) and the vendor told me that the purple and orange varieties were developed to entice children!

                1. re: MakingSense

                  yes an anchovy sauce is the way to go, capers and scallion. top with sunflower seeds, and it is the most scrumptious meal on its own.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I love aloo gobi - the Indian cauliflower and potato dish. And it's really easy to make. (I like the way the cauliflower retains its crunch in that dish which is why I was surprised when roasting made it so soft.)

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Who says I wrote off cauliflower? I adore it... roasted! I can eat almost an entire head of it by myself. :o)

          2. My method is to slice the cauliflower into 1/4" slices, so it kind of looks like a brain. Coat with oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan in one layer and roast in the oven at 375-400* until brown and caramelized. It reduces in size and the wife and I can eat one head between the two of us. Taste like french fires.

            1. I roast mine and in the last 10 minutes toss in some almond slivers and a tiny bit of garlic. After cooled to room temperature toss with a few currants in a vinagrette. Yum.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Mila

                Try it with some red peppers, black olives and a vinaigrette. Makes a great winter salad.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Black olives with the cauliflower sounds great. What kind do you use? And do you cut out salting the cauliflower since the olives are generally quite salty?

                  1. re: LNG212

                    Whatever I have on hand. Then I adjust for them. Have even used plain old canned ones which the kids would eat when they were younger. Strong ones would probably get pretty overwhelming if you made the dish too far ahead.

              2. I've noticed that the thin slices get crunchy while the thick ones get creamy (my daughter will only eat the crunchy ones). Try slicing it thinly, whole cross-wise, brain-style like scubadoo suggested, and you'll have more crunch. You'll need two pans to spread them out on, and I suggest pre-heating the pans in the oven, and do not use foil nor silpats - the hot metal is what does the trick.

                1. Did you dry it well after you rinsed it? Extra water combined with an, even slightly, crowded pan will create a steaming effect also.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: smarsh

                    Actually, I don't think I did dry it. I just kinda shook it off. I didn't even think of that. Thanks for the tip!

                    1. re: LNG212

                      That's the first think I thought of, too--you might even put the florets in a salad spinner to get them really dry.