Family and Friend Inspiration. My Childhood Friend, who goes back to kindergarten, surprised me with a Dinner Roulette suggestion of Fennel Crusted Pork Chops with Onion Strings, Apple Cranberry Compote and Root Vegetable Hash. This surprised me because he hasn’t eaten pork or onions for years- pork for religious reasons and onions for spousal reasons. It just goes to show you how strong food memories can be, so get to cooking and start making those memories. PS- Childhood Friend- you could make this for your wife- just leave out the red onions in the vinaigrette.
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes, any longer than that- you’re not trying hard enough, said the Dad.
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes, although I don’t like giving cooking times
Preheat: Oven to 450 degrees and make room for a large sheet pan on bottom rack.
Get Your Stuff Out.
It’s Not Easy Being Green Vinaigrette
1 cup packed fresh green herb leaves, like parsley, stemmed, washed, dried and finely minced
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium clove garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 large heads of cauliflower, green leaves trimmed away, stem cut even with bottom of head
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
Cook and Play.
Tell your Smart Speaker to play Thorn of Crowns by Echo & The Bunnymen, and get to saving that pig!
It’s Not Easy Being Green Vinaigrette.
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup finely minced parsley leaves, 1/4 cup finely minced red onion, 1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 grated garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
- Stir in 1/3 cup canola oil, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 2 or more tablespoons of water, adjusting oil, vinegar, and/or seasoning to get the taste and consistency you like- the Dad likes a bit more vinegar and red pepper flakes!
- I hope you didn’t forget to preheat your oven to 450.
- Cut vertically down the center of each cauliflower head to separate it into two equal halves. Cut down again to slice off a 1/2″ to 3/4″ cross section from the cut edge of each half. You may be able to get another one or two chops off the cut edge, but as you cut closer to the outside, uncut edge, several smaller pieces of “cauliflower shrapnel” will fall onto your cutting board- it’s not your fault, that’s just how cauliflower is. You should have at least 4 chops when you’re done.
- Place your cauliflower chops and pieces on a large baking sheet pan, drizzle or squirt with 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil and gently hand toss well with 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper.
- Arrange chops and larger pieces on perimeter of sheet, where it’s hottest, and smaller pieces in the middle of the sheet, where it’s not quite as hot. Roast cauliflower on bottom oven rack, flipping all chops and pieces after 10 minutes until both sides are nice and brown- another 10 minutes or so.
- Spoon a tablespoon or two of It It’s Not Easy Being Green Vinaigrette over each chop and save the shrapnel for a stir fry or curry, unless you’re hungry enough to eat that too!
The Dad Joke. While I may not have been as up front as I could have been about Santa Clause, I always made sure you kids (my kids) knew where your food was coming from so you could make better decisions about how you wanted to eat. I think my point is best illustrated by something Youngest Daughter said when she was 7 or 8 years old. A meat lover at the time, she was in the back seat with a friend, as we were driving to a hockey game. Her friend pointed to a picture of a pig in a book they were sharing, exclaiming, “Aren’t piggies so cute!”; to which Youngest Daughter replied, “Yeah, and they taste good too!”. The happy ending to this Pig Tale is that Youngest Daughter is now a pescatarian- apparently fish aren’t all that cute. Also, I hope the reference in the It’s Not Easy Being Green Vinaigrette is not lost on all you vegan and environmentalist out there.
The Key To The Recipe. Getting some nice, crispy brown goodness on your cauliflower- a combination of the high temperature and attention to your flips.
Special Equipment. Large Sheet Pan. Sheet pans can be a work horse in the kitchen, so I would invest in a few good ones if I were you. You will get best results with a heavy, sturdy sheet pan, which is essential for even heating and browning. In general, the heavier the pan, the better- my best sheet pan is 18”x13” and weighs 2 pounds 10 ounces, which is 8 ounces heavier than my 21”x15” pan, which is still a good pan, but can get a little wonky if preheated with very high heat. In case you were wondering, and only the food nerdiest among you would be (like I was), a full sheet pan is 26”x18”, and may not fit in your oven; a 2/3 sheet pan, which is often misleadingly called a 3/4 sheet pan, is 21”x15”; a half sheet pan is 18“x13”; and you’ll get 25 Bonus Points if you can figure out the dimensions of a quarter sheet pan. Squirt Bottles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, squirt bottles and food are fun! Why would you drizzle oil on your chops when you can squirt it- don’t worry if you don’t get the exact measurement of oil from the recipe because you don’t have to as long as most of the cauliflower has a light coating of oil on it after you toss it all up.
A Dad Tip. If you can’t fit all your food comfortably on one sheet pan, don’t crowd it all on there because your food will blandly steam more than it will deliciously brown, so use another sheet pan and stack both in the oven. One pan on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack. Halfway through the cooking time, alternate the racks; keeping in mind that you may have to cook a little longer with two pans in the oven.
Ingredients of Note. Cauliflower– I had only white cauliflower available, but it’s fun to know other colors, like yellow or purple, are available, if you want to color coordinate your meal with your outfit. Leafy Green Herbs. In addition to parsley, you could experiment with cilantro, basil, mint or a combination of these. You might not know, but cilantro stems are just as flavorful as the leaves, so just trim the ends off the stems and mince them up with the leaves.
It’s Not Easy Being Green Vinaigrette. This recipe is my take on chimichurri, which is a big hit with the family. Not only is chimichurri fun to say- like garbanzo beans, couscous, chimichanga, mortadella, mulligatawny- it packs a bright and herbaceous punch to liven up and balance dishes with earthy notes. It’s also versatile, serving grilled and roasted meats, fish and veggies, equally well. There are many variations on this theme- salsa verde (either Italian or Mexican), chermoula (another fun word!), lemony pesto etc, but they’re all basically a vinaigrette with a green herb and added flavors, like capers, tomatillos, anchovies and so on. You should make your vinaigrette to suit your tastes- we like ours with extra parsley and a 1 to 1 vinegar to oil ratio- old school vinaigrettes are 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Yes, you can use a blender, but that’s the lazy way out, said the Dad- also, the texture is much better if you hand chop!
Cauliflower Butchery. Cauliflower Chops are anatomically similar to meat chops, with a rib (the stem/core of the cauliflower) attached to a more tender cut of the whole (the florets). Now, while you’ll only get one or two chops per head of cauliflower, there are also a variety of uses, other than roasting for shrapnel. You could process it into rice, simmer it in milk or milk substitute to make a sauce or soup, slice it thin and quick pickle it, batter it up and make “wings” and so on. It also occurs to me, that after I made fun of the lie that “boneless” pork chops are in a previous post, cauliflower is even a bigger lie- cauliflower chops, steak, rice, wings, mashed potatoes? All lies, but at least they are healthy lies, so I’m good with it! When will we realize that vegetables are good all on there own and we don’t need to ascribe meat names to them to help with their self esteem?
Cauliflower Cookery. As, a Dad, I’m kicking myself a bit for not thinking of grilling the Cauli-Chops for this recipe, especially since I poked a little fun in the meat recipe at folks who might not grill their pork chops. But seriously, as delicious as grilled Cauli-Chops would be, this high heat roasting technique is my go to method for hearty veggies. The vegetables are elevated to a new level once they are properly roasted- taking on earthy and deep undertones of primal flavors from the caramelization of the sugars in the veggies that speak to your soul. To get that delicious brown caramelization, you are using the bottom rack and the hottest part of your oven, so you may want to check on the browning every 5 minutes or so and flip them more than a few times to make sure your brown doesn’t go to black. You also may have to cook them longer that 20 minutes if they don’t look brown enough, but are looking for good food here or to save time? The best news yet, this easy as pie technique-oil, season, toss and roast, with a few flips along the way- can be used with so many vegetables (meats too, actually)! Spoiler Alert- you’ll see this again in the Square Root Veggie Hash. PS. I noticed several recipes have you covering your sheet pan with foil for the first 10 minutes of cooking to steam the cauliflower before removing it to brown. I don’t think it’s worth the effort and find the texture on point without the extra step, but it you want to give a try, be my guest.
Burning Spices- A Lesson Learned. I thought it would be funny, in a Dad way, to use the Pig Rub on the vegan version of the Pork Chop recipe, but after I cooked the cauliflower chops with the Pig Rub, some of the seeds in the rubs became more burnt and bitter than a three time Floridian divorcee. It was just that the high heat and time you need to make the cauliflower all brown and yummy, was simply too much for the spices in the Pig Rub. I even called the famous Penzeys Spices company to see if its experts knew of any super spices resistant to burning at higher temperatures, like the Human Torch- apparently not. I also, found many high heat cauliflower recipes online that use spices and even garlic, which is notorious for becoming bitter at high heat, and wondered if such recipes could defy the laws of nature, like the grits in My Cousin Vinny- trust me, they cannot! So in the end, to give you the best tasting vegan chops out there, I went with tasty and crispy cauliflower and a lively herb vinaigrette! Not to say, you couldn’t roast your cauliflower at a lower temperature with spices and maybe even garlic, but your crispy, brown deliciousness will be compromised. BTW- the best part of roasted cauliflower are the smallest, almost completely brown bits in the pan, which are just like crispy turkey skin on Thanksgiving Day- and rarely make it to the family table.
Bonus Sauce. If your tastes run to the sweeter side, you should try this quick Maple Mustard Sauce to drizzle over your Cauli-Chops. Mix 2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard, 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup and enough water to thin it out to a drizzle consistency- adjusting the mustard and maple to your tastes. I will confess that many maple mustard sauces are more generous with the syrup, so feel free to bump up the maple goodness if you’re so inclined.
Course: vegan main
Keyword: cauliflower, vinaigrette, autumn
The Rest of the Meal
Dark Side Version: Spice Crusted Pork Chops- This Little Piggy Should Have Stayed Home
Square Root Veggie Hash Link Coming Soon
Bougie Apple Sauce Link Coming Soon
Fry Daddy Onion Strings Link Coming Soon