Snow is blanketing New York City outside my window and as I was flipping through my recipe rolodex for the perfect indulgent snack for this weekend's Super Bowl, it came to me, like a little Steve Bannon on Trump's shoulder - Baked Cauliflower Buffalo "Wings"! I first tried these at a great trendy little vegan spot in Silverlake Los Angeles called Sage, a plant based bistro. The bite was light and crispy on the outside, tender inside, without a bit of oil or heaviness and just the right amount of tangy creamy buffalo coating. Buffalo cauliflower "wings" have been making the rounds on blogs and Instagram recently and I've been curious to try my own. At Sage, with such high volume, its probably much more efficient to stick with a flash fry in tempura batter and call it a day. It's delicious after all but not the healthiest. It's hard to improve on something that tastes so perfect BUT I was convinced that you can achieve a similar effect by baking, especially if you have a little extra time. I wanted to avoid the thick doughy batter cauliflower but I also didn't want only seasoned cauliflower without a crunch. Getting that contrast between light and crispy, tangy with just enough heat, and still letting the tender texture and flavor of the cauliflower win is the idea here. For best results I bake them twice at a blasting heat to get them nice and crispy.
*Hint: For a healthier dipping sauce than the regular blue cheese dressing, add 1 cup Greek yogurt, a squeeze of lemon juice, pinch of salt and any mix of fresh herbs you like (dill, parsley, scallions, or chives) or mash and toss in a few chunks of blue cheese for that traditional taste.
*Hint #2: If buffalo is not your thing for the wing, no sweat - just omit the hot sauce and sub in 2/3 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or maybe a sticky sweet thai chili, West Indian jerk, or even honey mustard. The sky's the limit here so play around with different flavors and have fun with it. Whats your favorite way to mix it up? And most important, who are you rooting for??
*Hint #3: When I first made these I pulled off the extra batter bits before the second bake so they were prettier bites but DON'T, the batter bits are the yummiest bites!
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch florets
1 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular is fine)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup cold club soda or ice water (I used water but club soda will make it even crispier)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup hot sauce (Cholula or Crystal work great)
*optional- good handful of carrots and celery, cleaned and trimmed
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Lay out parchment paper on a sheet tray and toss a few glugs of olive oil and set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, add flour, dry spices, and 1 cup ice water and whisk until it comes together. Add more water if it seems too thick. You don't want it too thick but also not watery -somewhere in between where the coating stays on without dripping too much.
3. Working in batches with tongs, toss the cauliflower enough to completely coat each piece. Let any excess drip off and lay them out on your prepared sheet tray. Bake 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
4. While they are cooking, add your butter and hot sauce to a saucepan over low heat (or microwave). Once the butter melts, give a quick stir and turn off the heat. Clean your mixing bowl and add the buffalo sauce mixture and set aside.
5. With the oven still on, remove the cauliflower. With tongs, gently toss the cauliflower around the buffalo sauce until completely coated. Return cauliflower back to sheet tray and bake for another 25 minutes. This is when they'll crisp up nicely.
6. Serve while still hot (or let them cool - they taste great either way) with your Greek yogurt dip, carrots and celery. To top the cauliflower I like to sprinkle over my leftover herbs from the yogurt dip (parsley, celery fronds, and scallions).
Now sit back, tuck in and Go Falcons!