Have you ever tasted a restaurant dish, and sat back in wonder, flat-out amazed over its intense depth of flavor? Whether it’s a tomato dish that tasted more tomato-y than even the most perfect peak-grown tomato off the vine or the beef dish so boffo meaty it was like tasting beef for the first time again?
Turns out it’s not all about just using the best ingredients. It has even more to do with combining the right ingredients to magnify their shared flavor attributes.
That’s the genius of the new “Flavor for All: Everyday Recipes and Creative Pairings” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), of which I received a review copy.
It’s by James Briscione, a former culinary instructor who worked with IBM on its “Chef Watson,” which develops cognitive computing applications to create better ingredient combinations. Briscione also was the first two-time “Chopped” champion. He wrote the book with his wife, Brooke Parkhurst, a former culinary instructor. Together, the couple run Angelena’s Ristorante Italiano in Pensacola, FL.
With more than 100 recipes, they show you how to take advantage of certain ingredient combinations to achieve creative and delectable balance. If you really want to revel in the science, too, each recipe lists the chemical compound and its aromas that are highlighted in the dish. Every recipe, they state, is based on the idea that the ingredients used share a significant number of flavor compounds to maximize deliciousness.
Don’t let that make your head spin by any means, because at their heart these are fun and doable recipes to enjoy. Just consider the likes of “Asparagus and Potato Chip Gratin” (the same flavor compounds in fried foods are naturally present in asparagus); “Grilled Beef and Eggplant with Espresso Butter” (beef and eggplant take well to charring, and espresso powder only ups the roasted and charred aromas); and “Nutty Better Cookies” (chocolate chip cookies with a splash of fish sauce in the dough for a hint of umami).
“Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Mustard, Citrus, and IPA” spotlights the aromatic compound known as indole, which has the aromas of burnt, medicine and mothball.
That might not sound too appealing on its face. But trust me when I tell you this is one winning dish that you will want to devour, because those eyebrow-raising aromas actually describe coriander quite well, with its warm, savory, slightly woodsy, and citrusy notes. If you are a fan of India Pale Ale, with its hoppy bitter edge and lemony lilt, then you will go crazy for this cauliflower that’s actually cooked with that particular beer with its characteristic coriander-like note.
This dish couldn’t be easier to make. You just rub a whole cauliflower with olive oil, ground coriander and salt, then bake it in a pan that you’ve poured some of that IPA into. The cauliflower is later brushed with a mixture of Dijon mustard, honey, and lime juice, before going back into the oven to finish cooking.
You serve the cauliflower whole, which immediately gives it presence with no extra effort. The beer will have mostly cooked down, but there will be a few spoonfuls left in the pan that can be drizzled over the cauliflower before serving, lending a pleasing astringency akin to the taste of citrus rind.
Use a knife to “carve” the florets into manageable pieces. They will be tender, sweetly caramelized, and possessed of such boundless flavor that you will be amazed.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Mustard, Citrus, and IPA
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 cup India pale ale
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Keeping the head of cauliflower intact, trim the stem from the bottom so that the head will sit flat in a baking dish. Coat the outside of the cauliflower with the oil. The best way is to use your hands to rub it into all the nooks and crannies.
In a small bowl, mix together the salt and coriander. Sprinkle evenly over the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower in an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking dish and pour the beer around the sides to cover the base of the pan.
Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for about 20 minutes more.
While the cauliflower is cooking, combine the mustard, honey, lime juice, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Mix until smooth.
After the cauliflower has cooked for 20 minutes uncovered, remove it from the oven and brush the surface with the honey-mustard mixture (you may not use it all). Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes more.
After 15 minutes, check the cauliflower for doneness: The tip of a knife should easily pierce through the center of the cauliflower. If it does not, keep checking at 5-minute intervals until the knife easily passes through.
When the cauliflower is done, brush another layer of the mustard mixture over the cauliflower and transfer to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
Scatter the cilantro over the cauliflower and serve.
From “Flavor For All” by James Briscione and Brooke Parkhurst
More Cauliflower Recipes to Enjoy: Grains with Roasted Cauliflower, Black Olives, and Oranges
And: Kung Pao Cauliflower