Friday, September 24, 2010

roasted cauliflower, smoked paprika and cheddar frittata

cauliflower, smoked paprika and cheddar fittata
two confessions:

first. i've been in kind of a
weird place lately.
i'm not sure if it's extreme
exhaustion brought on
by this commute that i thought
i could handle, a hint
of unhappiness in one or two
aspects of my life or as i
suspect, a combination of both.

usually, when i feel off,
cooking helps me get back on track.
it gives me something to focus on,
something that i know i can handle
and something that i can at least
in some way, predict the final outcome of -
all unlike uncertain times in life.

but, lately, even the idea of cooking
feels daunting. i imagine a lot of
chopping, sauteing while having
to keep a watchful eye, leftovers
that i need to find a container for
and aching feet.

i'm not used to this and it scares
me that i'm losing the one
thing that i've always relied on.
if my interest in cooking,
in researching recipes,
in putting a homemade dinner
on the table every night
is wavering,
what's next?

so there's that.
and the second secret: i use cooking spray.
it is uncool for so many reasons.
it's a chemical that i'm spraying all over
my food. it's a weird-flavored thing that
i'm spraying all over my food. but,
really, to me it's necessary.

i grew up in a
home that used oil and butter sparingly,
cream, never. as an adult, i've reached
a compromise between the responsible
calorie-saving side and the culinary-trained
side, using a combination of olive oil and
spray while learning which recipes don't
actually need oil at all. it's something
that i've always been hesitant to write about.
what will other people think?

but, if i was able to admit to you that i'm
doubting myself in some ways, i think
it's only fair that i cop to buying the largest
cooking spray that the store carries.

go ahead, judge me.

in the meantime,
i'll tell you about this frittata.

for my birthday, in august,
my mom gave me two great cookbooks:

i've read both cover to cover several
times, but as is my new attitude apparently,
it all seemed so involved, such a commitment,
but, still so pretty, so tempting.
i've been torn.

last week,
in need of comfort, something
that required a low skill level and
a recipe that used a lot of ingredients
i already had in the house,
i landed on the smoky frittata in plenty.
it was an odd choice for me.
egg dishes don't entirely thrill me -
they're always so...eggy.
cauliflower florets
but this one had
golden cauliflower,
smoked paprika,
dijon mustard -
all ingredients that could
easily sway to me to overlook
the eggs (i was the kid who in
a mexican restaurant, ordered
a dish she had never heard of, with
ingredients she was so-so about,
just because it came with guacamole).

and, even better:
i knew i could handle it.
i would roast the cauliflower instead
of boiling, then browning in a pan.
i certainly could handle whisking
together a bunch of things in a bowl
and i was pretty sure that i could
bake the puffy omelet without burning it,
making a mockery of my
years in the kitchen in the process.

it felt good to drive home from
work, distracting myself on the ride
with ideas for the dinner, ultimately
deciding to use two mini cast iron
skillets instead of one large one. it
was nice to have a plan,
to walk into the kitchen, set the oven
to 400˚f and set to work cutting
the cauliflower into small florets.
it was a relief to realize that even
though i may feel inadequate a lot
lately, i still remembered to adjust
the racks to the top and bottom of
the oven and to divide the florets
evenly among two baking sheets
coated with cooking spray to
ensure that they browned
and didn't steam.

and while they were in the oven,
i changed around the rest of the recipe,
opting to whisk together all of the
flavor components first so that i
could taste and adjust,
before stirring in the raw egg.
i reduced the creme fraiche,
added horseradish, eliminated the smoky
mozzarella, increased the cheddar,
forgot about the chives (oops)
and added a few grains of smoked
salt that i purchased in temecula.
i think that's it.
loaded up
and when the cauliflower came
out of the oven - and we resisted
the urge to just eat them all, as is - i
divided them between the cast iron
skillets and poured in the egg mixture,
sure that i would have extra.
i didn't. and they were really cute.
over the flame
they looked so tiny,
hanging out over the flame on the stove,
but after the full 12 minutes in the oven,
placed on two plates they looked
beautiful - and huge.
out of the oven
the forkfuls,
alongside an arugula and apple salad,
were comforting and reassuring -
a promise that even though i'm still
not so willing to face
the stove with the same tenacity
i have in the past,
when i finally grab a knife,
it will be ok.
ready to eat
roasted cauliflower, smoked paprika and cheddar frittata
adapted from plenty
i will admit that even though i loved the look of the small cast iron pans, they produced frittatas that were huge - for me (larry was fine with the size). i was able to eat about half before i decided that i had had enough. the good news was that the omelet held up surprisingly well and was a nice lunch the next day. while it's true that i changed many elements, i think i still was able to maintain the smoky, cheesy essence of the dish.

plenty is written for a british kitchen - celsius, grams, etc. i converted to the best of my ability in this recipe.

1 medium head cauliflower, cored
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 heaping tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon prepared grated white horseradish
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated and divided
6 large eggs
one pinch large grain smoked salt, ground fine with a mortar and pestle (optional)

adjust racks to top and bottom thirds of oven. heat oven to 400˚f.

cut cauliflower into small-medium florets; place in bowl. drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to combine. transfer cauliflower to two foil-lined baking sheets coated with cooking spray. if cauliflower looks dry, drizzle with olive oil or coat with cooking spray.

roast cauliflower 20-25 minutes, flipping cauliflower once and rotating baking sheets from top rack to bottom, or until golden brown and tender.

reduce oven temperature to 375˚f. place one rack back in the center of the oven.

meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together creme fraiche, mustard, horseradish, smoked paprika and 2 ounces grated cheddar cheese. taste and adjust, if necessary. in separate bowl (i used the cauliflower bowl), whisk eggs. pour into creme fraiche mixture and whisk to completely combine. season with a touch of salt and pepper, if desired.

coat one 10" cast iron skillet or two 5" cast iron skillets with cooking spray. evenly divide cauliflower between the two skillets to mostly cover the bottom of the skillet (i had extra, but roasted cauliflower never lasts very long in this house, so i wasn't worried). carefully divide egg mixture between the two skillets.

set skillet(s) over flame(s) set to medium. let cook 5 minutes, or until the bottom begins to set.
place on baking sheet. sprinkle with remaining cheese and smoked salt, if using.

carefully transfer baking sheet to oven. bake 8-12 minutes, or until the mixture is completely set. let sit 2-3 minutes before serving.


Ellie said...

This sounds wonderful - & I just bought a head of cauliflower - & am looking for a new recipe for it! Thanks Brooke!

brooke said...

thank you (and i know this is after the fact, but glad to hear you enjoyed it)!