For my 21st birthday, my sister took me to dinner at Wheat Penny in Dayton. I ordered the best lasagna I'll ever have, and she ordered cauliflower steak. Now, even after being a vegetarian for several years, that just didn't sound like anything special to me. I mean, celebratory meals are meant for cheesy, creamy, decadent, "I'll regret this tomorrow" dishes. But, I could not have been more wrong. I spent the duration of the meal picking off her plate, dipping this amazing, meaty cauliflower into a side of polenta that I swear was heaven-sent.
I recently tackled polenta (click here for recipe), and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't mess it up. But, cauliflower steaks have been off limits for me in fear of tarnishing the memory of Wheat Penny's masterpiece. Too much? Well, they were really THAT good. But, alas, I conquered the fear and took the plunge into making my take on the dish I continue to swoon over after almost a year. And, while it may not live up to the restaurant's version, I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the results.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove the outer leaves from a large head of cauliflower, and cut it in half. Take one of your halves and slice 1-inch slabs, starting from the cut side and working your way to the smaller edge. Repeat this step with the other half. Your slices should include the stems, as these are edible and have a very "meaty" texture. Put your cauliflower slices into a large resealable plastic bag with a 1/2 cup or so of your favorite salad dressing or marinade. I used a creamy garlic and black pepper salad dressing, but Italian dressing or lemon pepper marinade would be great! Place the bag in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This next step is optional, but I highly recommend it. While the cauliflower soaks in the marinade, roast a full bulb of garlic in the oven. If you don't remember how to do that, go here!
Once the garlic is roasted, its time to cook the cauliflower. Place a frying pan over high heat, and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil once its screaming hot. Place the cauliflower slabs into the pan and let them sear for 45 seconds to a minute on each side. This step is not about cooking the steaks all the way through, it's just about developing a crust that will lock in the flavors of the marinade and give you that 'charred" meat affect. Once the steaks are seared on both sides, place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown/fork tender, flipping half-way through. While the steaks are baking, squeeze out your roasted garlic into a bowl. Add a half stick of butter, salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs/spices(I recommend parsley, rosemary, or lemon pepper). Melt the garlic butter in the microwave, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Baste the steaks with half of this mixture five minutes before they're finished cooking. It adds so much flavor!
I added the rest of the garlicky, herb butter to the cauliflower steaks once they were finished cooking, and ready to serve. These "steaks" were so filling and decadent. The roasted garlic adds a really refined taste that pairs so well with flavors from the marinade. This dish is very versatile, too. I plan on making one with caramelized onions and mushrooms with some sort of gravy/sauce. Or even one with a pico de gallo on top. The pairings are endless! This would also make a great alternative to the traditional frozen veggie burgers most people prepare for their vegetarian friends at barbecues/parties. I hope all you meat eaters and herbivores alike try something new with this one.