Monday, November 06, 2006

Hot and Spicy Temperament

I was never much of one for cauliflower. Until two things happened.

Some years ago, a friend told me that cauliflower was that person’s favorite vegetable.

I had to stop and think about that. This was a person who had exhibited good food judgment and taste in the past. All of the sudden cauliflower. Not tomatoes, or carrots, or corn or some other more expected choice. Was I missing something here? I investigated briefly, and decided not. But it sort of stuck in my mind.

Then I began looking into hot cuisines. Like Indian. And it caught my eye how often cauliflower was paired with something spicy hot. Did they know something I did not? Most likely. In fact, of course they did! Most everyone knows lots of stuff I have no clue about. That’s pretty much a given.

So I decided to try cauliflower hot and spicy.

My experience with cauliflower till that point had been limited to bland Thanksgiving and Christmas veggie trays with onion soup mix sour cream dip set on one of those plastic trays that looked like a turkey or a Christmas tree or something similarly kitschy.

I was not inclined to explore further. But I had not really given the oddly shaped vegetable its due.

We eventually made up for this oversight by roasting cauliflower. First just with olive oil, then with ever hotter spices. Cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin, etc. And the true nature of cauliflower began to emerge. Hot and spicy! Delicious.

It turns out that cauliflower has a hot and spicy temperament! Like the kind our movie star Governor Ah-nold was referring to recently (maybe he was really talking about cauliflower?!). You just would never know it to look at it!

We make spicy roasted variations of cauliflower on a regular basis now.

But today, a new dilemma was upon us. We had not only an aging cauliflower in the fridge, but also some chicken breasts. On the bone. And I was just not in the mood for some complicated fancy chicken affair. Nor did I have the time.

I was leaning towards soup. A chicken soup. Where the breasts on the bone would form the basis of a quick broth.

And as we were thinking about the soup, TeenGirl suggested we toss the cauliflower in. But that didn’t sit right with anyone. Too bland. Mushy cauliflower dissolved in some chicken broth?

Of course, maybe not so bland if we spice it up first. And roast it first. Can you put spicy roasted cauliflower into a soup? And why not?

And spicy chicken soup? That actually sounded pretty good. We had some chipotles in the fridge, left over from something. They’re hot. Chicken soup with chipotles and roasted cauliflower? Hmmm. A few more spices. Some beans (ideally pinto, but we only had cannelloni beans). Maybe some bell peppers to round out the veggies.

And roasted cauliflower chili chicken soup was born!

It may sound unusual (I am avoiding the word strange). But it was pretty damn good. The roasted cauliflower melded wonderfully with the chipotle chilies. You got the nice toasted flavor, with a nice heat, and a wonderfully fresh chicken broth all in one bite. The soup broth itself was very rich in flavor, but thin in texture, despite the beans, so we put it over a scoop of rice (brown, of course!). Something we almost always do, mainly to feed TeenBoy without going broke. You could certainly serve it without the rice as well. A complete and delicious meal in a bowl!

Roasted Cauliflower and Chili Chicken Soup
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 6 to 8 as a main course

1 large cauliflower, core removed, broken or cut onto flowerets
Olive oil
Cayenne pepper
6 split chicken breasts on the bone
1 onion, cut into quarters, not peeled
1 stalk celery, chopped roughly
1 carrot, chopped roughly
8 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 to 4 chipotle chilies, chopped
chili powder
3 16 ounce cans cannelloni beans, rinsed
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
grated cheddar cheese for garnish, if desired
cilantro, chopped, for garnish, if desired
steamed rice, if desired

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large soup pot, combine chicken breasts, onion pieces, celery, carrot, thyme, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves with water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer the soup, partially covered, for 1 hour.

While the chicken cooks, in a large roasting pan, toss the cauliflower pieces with olive oil, cumin and cayenne pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until well browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

When the soup has cooked an hour, remove from heat and remove all chicken pieces and all vegetables. Let the chicken pieces cool. Remove the chicken from the bone, and shred it with a fork.

If possible, remove any fat that has risen to the top of the broth.

Bring the broth to a gentle boil, and add the chipotles, the beans, and the spices to taste. Let cook for 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper pieces and cook for 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and the roasted cauliflower pieces, and let heat through, stirring gently.

Put a scoop of steamed rice in a soup bowl. Ladle the soup around the rice. Sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger Callipygia said...

I'd say that teenboy and teengirl are really lucky to be eating such gorgeous food- lots of creativity.

11:56 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Callypigia - thanks! It was really good!

10:47 AM  
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