Oh, did you think we were talking about a ribeye? Get a grip! Cauliflower steaks are the dish du jour -- turning up in dining rooms all around Dallas.
Earlier this year, a whole roasted head of cauliflower was the impactful side dish of the moment, nearly supplanting the whole roasted pig's head carnitas at CBD Provisions as the platter offering the most startling visual. It's a menu staple at Cafe Momentum, where the brain-like brassica head is blanched in court bouillon then dusted with flakes of Manchego cheese before taking a roasty turn in the oven.
This season, a number of chefs are slicing the head into slabs, or "steaks." It's a treatment we first saw (and gleefully tore into) at Tim Love's Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth three years back.
At 18th and Vine, a new Kansas City-style barbecue place on Maple Avenue, chef Scott Gottlich and his pitmaster and co-owner Matt Dallman cut each cauliflower head in half, then blanch it and put a mop on it before wood-smoking it for 20 or 30 minutes. Onto a buttery cauliflower purée it goes, then it's finished with more butter. "What's exciting for me," says Gottlich, "is the people who come in who are vegetarians who are like wow, there's something for me?!"
Both locations of Dish (Cedar Springs and Preston Hollow) have grilled cauliflower steak on their menus. There it gets a vaguely Sicilian-accented treatment, dressed up with brown butter, golden raisins, cipollini onions, baby kale and Calabrese pepper. Just as the red-meat version of steak might be, it's served with a lovely little arugula salad.
Meanwhile, at Rapscallion -- the Modern Texas place on lower Greenville -- chef Nathan Tate takes his inspiration from Middle-Eastern fried cauliflower. Tate par-cooks fat cauliflower steaks in a fryer, then grills them "so you get the smoky char from the grill, and you have the caramelization."
He's emphatic about that part. "You gotta get the caramelization to make it delicious -- and take some of the water out of it. It's completely different than just a steamed cauliflower." He serves it with what he calls Okinawa white barbecue sauce -- a Japanese spin on Alabama mayo-based white barbecue sauces, umamied up with miso.
So, could the trend be a reaction to the World Health Organization's proclamation of a cancer risk from red meat? "I'm not ready to buy that quite yet," says Tate, after reflecting for about an 20th of a second. "We still sell a ton of our dry-aged meat out of our cooler, too."
But, he adds, "It might be the new Brussels sprouts, you know?"