Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pezzetti di Cavalfiore (batter-fried cauliflower)

A friend of mine recently posted online that she's discovering the joys of cooking cauliflower so I thought I would add this wonderful Roman recipe for her to check out. I found this in one of the used Italian cookbooks I purchased in Powell's up in Portland last month (Julia Della Croce's book Roma - Authentic Recipes From In And Around The Eternal City) and was excited to try it as apparently it is a very typical Roman dish. 

Spoiler alert - it came out beautifully with an amazingly addictive flavor.

egg whites

egg yolks

water added to the yolks


first phase of the batter after the water was added


whipped egg whites


whites folded into the batter

heating the fry oil


battered cauliflower

sizzles


Ingredients:
Batter:
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large head cauliflower (about 6 cups of florets)
olive (or other vegetable) oil for frying - to about 2 inches deep in a heavy-bottom skillet or Dutch oven
sea salt for seasoning

Directions:
Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs into separate bowls. 

(Jacques P├ępin recommends separating eggs with your hands as it tends to save most of the whites for a dish. Otherwise, a fair amount of the whites get left behind. It may take a bit to learn how to handle the yolks carefully enough in order to not break them but once you get a feel for it, it's worth the effort).

Add the water to the bowl with the yolks and mix just enough to combine without beating. Add the flour and again mix enough to just combine without beating. Cover each of the bowls with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours.

One hour before serving, remove the bowl with the whites and use a mixer to whip until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Remove the bowl with water-yolk-flour batter and fold the whites into it. 

While the batter rests, prepare the cauliflower by cutting it into separate florets as evenly-sized as possible. Boil or steam the florets for 4 minutes then remove and dry them in its own bowl.

Prepare a heavy-duty pot for frying by adding the oil and bringing up to a temperature of 375F or until it is hot enough so that a drop of the batter immediately sizzles when added.

Pour the batter into the bowl with the prepared cauliflower then mix to completely coat it. Bring an oven to a warming temperature, about 170F.

Add the battered cauliflower into the hot oil in batches so that the pieces can fry evenly. For each batch cook until they are evenly well-browned, about 5-8 minutes, turning them over once. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up the grease then keep in the warmed oven while you finish the remaining batches.

Once all of the cauliflower has been fried, sprinkle the sea salt on it, and serve.