Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cauliflower "Chicken" & Buttermilk-Herb Waffles

Who says vegetarian food can’t be totally drool worthy? 

This weekend, my sister came over bragging about the amazing chicken and waffles she made for dinner the night before, complete with cognac maple syrup. So all day I was thinking about chicken and waffles and finally, it hit me - I could make CAULIFLOWER “chicken” and have some too!

As delicious as that cognac maple syrup sounded, I wanted to make something savory, and decided I would top mine with gravy. As a vegetarian, I have been on a quest to find a delicious and flavorful gravy recipe, and I think crimini mushrooms totally make it happen.

There is just something magic about buttermilk waffles - crispy and golden brown on the outside, but light and fluffy on the inside. I have about 15 different herbs growing in my garden right now, and used sage, thyme and oregano in them along with a bit of garlic powder to give them a decidedly NOT breakfast-y spin.

And as for the cauliflower “chicken”? I knew I wanted to layer the flavor in these, so I used a bit of sriracha in the buttermilk to provide a base, and then seasoned the flour with garlic, smoked paprika and salt. And because, lets face it, chicken and waffles is never gonna be health food, I went ahead and fried it. Might as well live a little, right?

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t garlic powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
5 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme and sage

1/2 sweet onion, chopped
12 oz crimini mushrooms, cut into slices
1 clove of garlic, crushed
4 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
2 cups vegetarian stock
1 T chopped fresh thyme and sage

1 head cauliflower, cut into chicken wing sized florets
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 T sriracha
2 cups flour
2 T garlic powder
2 T smoked paprika
1 T salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Turn your waffle iron on, then whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and garlic powder together in a large bowl. Beat the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and chopped herbs together in a separate bowl, then combine with the dry ingredients and stir just until it comes together, being careful to not over mix (batter may still be lumpy). Cook waffles according to your waffle irons specifications until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack on a baking sheet and set aside.

For the cauliflower: Combine the buttermilk and sriracha and stir. Pour the flour, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt into a large brown paper bag, and gently shake to combine. Drop each piece of cauliflower into the buttermilk mixture, then into the bag of flour. Roll down the top edge of the brown paper bag to close, then shake to coat the cauliflower. Repeat this and dip them once more in the buttermilk and coat again with the flour. Let the cauliflower pieces rest on a paper towel lined baking sheet while you make the gravy (this allows the coating to ‘come together’ so all the flour don’t come off while frying).

To make the gravy, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then cook the onions until they begin to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are browned, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more, then sprinkle in flour, stir to coat the mushrooms and onions with it, and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring to ensure the flour cooks evenly. Add the stock, stirring constantly until the gravy thickens, about 5 minutes, then add the herbs. Salt to taste. 

Heat a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Fry the cauliflower pieces until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side, working in batches and being careful to not over-crowd the pan. 

While frying the cauliflower, place your baking sheet with waffles in the oven to warm for about 10 minutes. 

To serve, top warmed waffles with a few pieces of cauliflower and drizzle with gravy.

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