Roasting vegetables is about technique. The technique is about removing moisture so that a Maillard reaction can happen. The reaction produces a distinctive taste and a brown appearance from caramelized sugars. In this Mustard Roasted Cauliflower dish, I take advantage of this taste in cauliflower and enhance it with dried mustard.
All of the approaches and ingredients used in this recipe are designed to lead to the crisp brown tops and edges. Even the dried mustard adds to the browning.
Notes on Ingredients
Not counting salt and olive oil this is a two-ingredient dish. Simplicity, but those ingredients are important.
Choosing a fresh cauliflower is important. Although available year-round, some of that advantage is due to long shipping. Look for one that is creamy and white, free of blemishes, browning, or mold spots. And if leaves are present, they should be fresh green. You are off to a good start if you find all of those.
I generally use regular powdered mustard for this recipe. This enhances the nutty taste and makes for a nice side dish. Depending on what you plan to serve with the cauliflower, you may choose to use a hot powdered mustard. Or even augment with a paprika.
Notes on Technique
This approach to cauliflower, in fact, to all roasted vegetables is based on a specific technique. But with cauliflower, it is a bit unique. You can fully roast and cook cauliflower and have a soft, kind of so-so taste. But if you continue to roast it, it transforms into a different nutty taste. A few things help this happen.
To be most successful with this recipe use baking sheets. A full baking sheet (oven size) allows the cauliflower florets to be spread out and roast. This is necessary, because if they are in close contact the cauliflower steams, not roasts. My preferred method is two half-baked sheets if you have them. Cooking is the same, but they are easier to handle.
I incorporate a few tricks. I like to lightly coat the pan(s) with olive oil and place in the oven for a few minutes before adding the cauliflower this helps begin the brown sear on the cauliflower.
Temperature and Time
The cauliflower must roast at 400°F/200°C — lower than other vegetables. This leads to a longer roasting time, about 30 minutes in total (with a turn in the middle of cooking) to give the nice nutty taste desired.
- Cauliflower head
- olive oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried Mustard, or to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C
- Cut cauliflower florets from the stalk. Cut till pieces are about 2-bite sized or less—place in a bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil over cauliflower until well coated. Salt well, then sprinkle dried mustard over cauliflower -- spreading as much as possible.
- Add a bit of olive oil to a full-size baking sheet or 2 half-size sheets. Spread the oil for a light coat. Place a baking sheet in the oven to warm for a few minutes. (This helps create a nice sear.)
- Remove the sheets from the oven and add cauliflower. Spread the florets so that they are touching as little as possible. Roast for about 15-18 minutes, points and tops should be browning nicely. Turn the cauliflower with tongs or a spatula, placing the darkest brown spots down, then return to the oven to roast for about 10-15 minutes. Cook until toasty and well-browned.