Recipe: Fried Cauliflower with Spicy Fish Sauce
As food people, we can't resist a good cookbook. And it didn't take us long to figure out that Joshua McFadden's newly released cookbook, Six Seasons, was the kind of book that we would be cooking out of and turning to for years to come.
Joshua is the chef at Ava Gene's in Portland, Oregon, but he started his career in New York, working at some of the top restaurants in the business, including Franny's and Blue Hill. His book documents the easter eggs of wisdom he has amassed over the years on cooking vegetables--his recipes are full of easy techniques that will stick with you for the long haul.
We're thrilled to welcome Josh to Raleigh next week when we host him at Bridge Club for a cookbook party. In deciding which of the many recipes we wanted to share with attendees, we couldn't resist a dish of fried cauliflower with spicy fish sauce. Josh was kind enough to grant us permission to share the recipe here. Make it at home, or join us on Tuesday to get a copy of Six Seasons (which Josh will happily sign for you) and snack on some of the dishes from the book.
Fried Cauliflower with Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce
This recipe is the result of an experiment I did one day when I was working at a restaurant in New York City. I was cooking Brussels sprouts and trying to figure out what method to use to get them super crispy. I had sprouts going simultaneously in a sauté pan, the oven, the steamer, and I threw one into the deep fryer. I sort of forgot about that one, yanking it out only after it was almost burnt. And of course it was the winner—crisp, almost charred, and exceedingly sweet. Now I use the same method for many vegetables, cauliflower being ideal. You can serve it simply tossed with lemon, salt, and dried chile flakes; with a lime and freshly coarsely chopped garlic and parsley; or with a sauce or dip, as I do here.
2 garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium cauliflower cut into chubby florets
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce (see below)
Put the garlic in a bowl large enough to hold all the cauliflower and add enough olive oil to cover.
Pour at least 3 inches of oil into a medium saucepan with tall sides (so that the oil can’t bubble over when you add the cauliflower). Slowly bring the oil up to 365°F on a thermometer. Arrange a double layer of paper towels on a tray and set near the stove.
Carefully immerse a few of the cauliflower florets into the oil and fry until they are really dark brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Repeat to fry all the cauliflower, taking care not to add too many florets at once, which would lower the oil temperature and make the cauliflower greasy.
Toss the fried florets in the bowl with the chopped garlic and its oil, the parsley, and a big old glug of the fish-sauce sauce. You want enough to coat the florets and leave more for sopping up. You can also serve the cauliflower undressed, with the spicy fish-sauce sauce in a ramekin for dipping.
Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1/4 cup seeded, deribbed, and minced fresh hot chiles (use a mix of colors)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Stir everything together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust so you have an intense sweet-salty-sour-hot balance. Ideally, make this a day ahead, then taste and readjust the seasonings on the second day. The chile heat is likely to get stronger. The sauce will keep for a month or two in the fridge.
Excerpted from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Laura Dart and A.J. Meeker.