David Chang’s Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

David Changs Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette by A Little Yumminess

Sometimes it’s fun to mix things up by eating a bunch of little appetizers instead of a big meal all at once. Especially on Friday nights when we’re left with odds and ends in our refrigerator and we can be a little more leisurely about eating, we’ll just rustle up some small courses and nibble until we’re feeling full. Maybe some dip and veggies, some creatively re-purposed leftovers, a few dumplings I’ve stashed away in the freezer, perhaps a few crostini, a little pasta or some international fried rice. Back in our pre-kids era we used to do this kind of random, roving eating often, snacking our way through our Netflix pile or a Sopranos-watching marathon and it’s kind of nostalgic to bring the tradition back.

This David Chang cauliflower recipe was the highlight of one of our recent Friday night family nibble-fests. I’ve never been to his restaurant Ssäm Bar, but I hear this is a popular item on the menu and he says it works well with brussels sprouts in case cauliflower is not your thing. It’s basically just riff on a basic crispy, roasted cauliflower but takes thing up a notch with a killer combo of savory, tangy, bright flavors tossed together just before serving. I’ll admit that I had intended this mostly for the adults thinking the fish sauce and togarashi (Japanese chili flakes) might put the kids off, but at least one little guy ended up chowing down. Simran and I are both big proponents of not dumbing down food for kids, but sometimes I find myself censoring dishes and flavors without even really thinking about it.  I’m embarrassed to say that at first I didn’t even offer any of this cauliflower to the boys but ended up with a great reminder that with kids you just never know.

David Chang’s Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

David Chang’s original recipe (you can find it here at the Splendid Table) calls for fried cilantro leaves and a cheeky little garnish of togarashi rice krispies (krispies toasted in a dry pan and then tossed with togarashi). In this version I have kept the cilantro fresh and have substituted the crunch of the krispies with store-bought fried onions, the ones that come in big jars at the Asian supermarket. 

  • 1 head of cauliflower (cut into florets, washed and dried very well)
  • Oil for coating the baking sheet

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled, halved, crushed)
  • 1 Thai bird’s eye chile (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime

Garnish

  • togarashi (Japanese chili flakes)
  • crispy onions
  1. Heat your oven to 450. Lightly coat a foil-covered baking sheet with oil and let it preheat as the oven warms.
  2. Place washed, well-dried cauliflower florets onto the hot baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. Check the cauliflower and toss every 5-10 minutes until it is roasted to your liking. (We usually roast for a total of 30-35 minutes. It can burn so keep an eye on it.)
  3. While your cauliflower is roasting, wash and dry your herbs and make the vinaigrette. For the vinaigrette whisk fish sauce; minced cilantro stems; rice wine vinegar; lime juice; sugar; and halved, crushed garlic clove; and chiles (if using).  Set aside.
  4. When your cauliflower is roasted, place it in a serving bowl. Fish out the garlic from the vinaigrette and discard it, then pour the vinaigrette over the hot cauliflower and toss well. Mince mint and cilantro leaves and sprinkle over the dressed cauliflower along with togarashi and crispy onions. Serve immediately.

Chicken Stock for the Soul

My dad makes a lot of chicken stock and it was one of those rites of passage things he made sure to teach me before I left the nest. He’ll tell you his number one rule is not to add too much water otherwise you’ll end up with a weak tasting stock. My dad isn’t the kind of guy to dispense much advice in general but when he does it’s usually a pretty great nugget on a narrow range of subjects including saving money, not losing your keys, safety behind the wheel, or making a good tasting soup.

The apple indeed does not fall far from the tree. Just like my dad, I have taken on the habit of cooking a big pot of chicken stock a couple of times a month. Sometimes the impetus is the leftover carcass of a roast chicken, other times I buy a few of pounds of backs and necks for next to nothing at the meat counter. I toss those in a pot and cover with cold water (but not too much!) then leave it at a very low simmer, uncovered, for a couple of hours, skimming when I get the chance. Sometimes, I throw all my ingredients in a crock pot (with the lid slightly ajar) and let it go all day or  over night, or if I have the oven on I’ll stash my stock pot to cook along in there. I switch it up when the mood strikes by adding carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppercorns, mushrooms, tomatoes…

I don’t even pretend to have the sagely wisdom of my dad, but I do intend to teach both my boys to be great stock makers. An excellent stock can take you so many places in any cuisine and its one of the best tricks I know to improve your cooking overall. I know it’s highly possible that neither of them may ever have the inclination to fill their freezer with flavorful homemade stock, but at least they’ll know how and I can feel that I have done my duty to pass along the family wisdom on the subject.

Basic Chicken Stock

After simmering on the stove, in a crock pot or in the oven for several hours, let your stock cool a bit then strain it with a fine mesh strainer into whatever container will fit into your refrigerator. When it’s chilled through, skim off any solidified fat and use within a few days or freeze.

Super Flavorful Stock – Here some of our favorite tricks for pumping up the flavor:

  • Reduce the stock by a third or a half to concentrate it’s flavors. This is also helpful if you’re short on space. You can store a reduced stock  in a smaller container and then add back water as needed as you’re cooking. Be careful about adding salt before reducing, the saltiness with intensify as well. Best to be conservative with salt at the start and leave yourself room to season with more at the end as needed.
  • We like this trick from Cooks Illustrated which involves browning a modest amount of ground chicken then simmering the stock with the meat to pump up the chicken-y flavors. You’ll need to strain it again before using.
  • You can boost the flavor and take it in a different direction by adding a Parmesan cheese rind and letting that simmer with the stock. This is great for a simple soup of tortellini in brodo.
  • Recently we tried our hand at a simplified version of David Chang’s “Ramen Broth 2.0”, which involved simmering a basic stock with konbu (a type of dried seaweed), pulverized dried shitakes and a little bit of bacon. You can find all the details on that bowl of delicious in the first issue of Lucky Peach magazine.

The Best Chicken Soup Ev-uh

Our favorite way to enjoy a great stock is to make an old fashioned chicken soup. And our favorite way to make the soup is to cook all the components separately (vegetables, pasta, chicken), seasoning them so they each taste great on their on and are at the perfect point of done-ness. That means you can toss your perfectly al dente pasta with a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese, you can season steamed carrots with sea salt and finely minced thyme, and you can toss your shredded chicken with a bright squeeze of lemon — and you can do all this in advance if you like. At dinner time, compose each bowl with the prepared ingredients and pour your piping hot, extra delicious stock over to warm everything through. Sure it’s more work than throwing everything in a pot all at once, but the soup is perfection and everyone can personalize their dinner. And this sort of chicken soup assembly project is an easy “cooking” activity for kids who aren’t quite old enough to work at the stove yet.

Check out some of our other chicken soup-related faves: Tortellini in Brodo, Luisa’s Sopa de Tortilla, Don’t Throw That Out! Meet Your New BFF, the Parmegiano Reggiano Rind

Thanksgiving, It’s a Wrap

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Simran and I hope you had the chance to enjoy some great company and great food. We were both too busy cooking, eating and sharing the holiday with family and friends to think too much about blog posts but now that we’re back to “real life”, here are some pictures and highlights from the festivities.

Turkey 3 Ways in Monterey

We had a big celebration that brought together 3 branches of our family in picturesque Monterey. The day was gorgeous, crisp and clear. In addition to the array of fairly traditional potluck side dishes (everything from Great Aunt Titi’s famous refrigerator mashed potatoes; to green salads; candied yams; bread stuffing; my dad’s nor mai fan (Chinese rice and sausage stuffing); French Apple Cake and my husband’s apple pie made from his grandmother’s recipe — our table featured turkey cooked three ways: BBQ’d, smoked and oven roasted.

While the turkeys cooked away, some of us took a walk on the beach in Carmel, the kids did lots and lots of running around and the adults just kicked back, caught up and had a glass of wine. Ahhh, that’s my kind of Thanksgiving! The smoked turkey was probably the winner in my book (although make note: not ideal for gravy-making), so I think we may be seeing a backyard smoker at Casa Stacie sometime soon!

Simran’s holiday took a more non-traditional route. In this case a trip to LA with her family to relax and check out the sights and eats. She tells me she came across some great food, but I’ll let her share the details about that.

….. and now to the all important leftovers!

I fall into the category of people who look forward to the leftovers just as as much as the “main event”. There are certain eagerly-awaited, Thanksgiving leftover-driven dishes that only come but once a year. In an informal poll, here’s what my friends did with their leftover turkey this year:

  • tacos with homemade chipotle sauce
  • stir fry with veggies and rice
  • ate it cold while standing in front of the fridge 😉
  • pot pie
  • croquettes (turkey, mashed potatoes, indian spices, egg and breadcrumbs)
  • turkey corn soup (vs. Chicken Corn Soup)
  • turkey and vegetable curry
  • turkey hash with eggs for brunch
  • we made soup stock from the bones
  • homemade hearty turkey & veggie soup
  • white wine coq au vin with turkey instead of chicken, and your basic rustic turkey soup with clear broth
  • turkey soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey quesadillas, turkey tetrazzini. And turkey sandwiches, of course
  • turkey and white bean chili…
  • Martha Stewart’s leftover shepherds pie and put it in the freezer for a day when we are craving Thanksgiving again
  • sandwiches and my stepfather made soup with the carcass
  • homemade hearty turkey & veggie soup
  • sandwiches, my favorite!
  • A close friend, amazing cook and food blogger, “The Hungry Dog” just posted about her leftover adventures and trip back to her childhood with some turkey Tetrazini.
  • And for the truly ambitious, I love these recipes from David Chang’s “Thanksgiving Leftover Challenge” with Food and Wine Magazine from a few years back. Click here to check out his recipes for mashed potato spring rolls, spicy brussels sprouts with mint, turkey breast with ginger scallion sauce, turkey cracklings, soy-braised turkey with rice, brown butter custard pie with cranberry glaze and cinnamon toast crumb crust.

Somehow, even with three turkeys, we sneaked away with no leftovers so we are living vicariously this year. Luckily my parents will be sure to  hook us  up. My mom celebrates her midwest roots by making open faced hot turkey sandwiches with gravy (and sometimes cranberry), and I’m certain that by now my dad has cooked up a big kettle of stock for jook (Chinese rice porridge). Probably my favorite leftover tradition of all is my parents’ annual jook party which in recent years has merged with our annual holiday baking/cookie swap. Jook and cookies, you’ve just got to love that. A tradition for the ages!