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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cauliflower sauce in a hall of mirrors


Inspired by that capricci with cauliflower ragu at Lupa I attempted my own version at home. Looking around the blogsphere it appears that it's pretty simple to make. I started mine by softening some minced garlic in butter, adding a chopped head of cauliflower, some homemade chicken stock, and a splash of vermouth, tossing in some rosemary, thyme, and salt, and simmering for a good, long time.

I don't make my own pasta. (Someday!) So I boiled whole wheat fusili. When I combined the ragu with the pasta I felt there was something creamy missing, so I added some whole milk plain yogurt. That did the trick. Then, just because we had some on hand, I tossed in some sliced bratwurst. I thought it would go well with the cauliflower.

Like Yvo's appraisal of Lupa's cauliflower ragu, mine didn't seem to bring out the flavor of cauliflower. I think it would have been worse if I'd used canned chicken stock instead of homemade, but I suspect if you want the cauliflower flavor to really shine you should just cook it in plain water. Also, next time no bratwurst. Pepper, though -- that's essential. I love the way freshly-ground black pepper complements cauliflower.

Imagine my shame and chagrin when I read Sue's post mentioning Rachel Ray's "nasty cauliflower 'sauce'" -- no!

1. Nasty -- it's practically the same sauce I made.
2. Not really a sauce? Oh all right, you have me there.
3. Feh, Rachel, queen of open-a-package-and-call-it-cooking, has tainted the very idea of cauliflower pasta sauce by association!

This brings us to my true feelings about Rachel Ray. Hooray for having the chutzpah to accomplish everything she has, for working so hard, for being all folksy and approachable. So glad she's getting people back into their kitchens. But I wouldn't want to learn about cooking from her, I think she's done too many indiscriminate and crappy food endorsements (Ritz crackers, are you serious?!?), her voice is almost as annoying as Dora the Explorer's, and I am repelled by her aesthetics in general.

So finding out that Rachel Ray has a cauliflower pasta recipe out there is kind of like showing up at a party wearing a dress you like and looking across the room and oh no, that blandly trend-hopping, styleless woman you know happens to be wearing the same dress. (OK, yes, I am that petty and shallow sometimes.) What does that mean for the dress? Is this an occasion to question my own taste? Or did she just get lucky? Or are we both just caught up in the same stupid zeitgeist?

I run to take refuge in some glazed carrots. I'm not finding out who else has been riffing on them; I got my recipe from the venerable Saveur. This much butter and sugar may help me forget all about Rachel and nasty cauliflower sauces.

2 comments:

Cafe Johnsonia said...

Okay. I'm so glad we are on the same page as RR.

Someone said to me a little while back--"You like the next Rachel Ray!"

I kind of chuckled and said, "Yeah....I don't really like her."

What I really wanted to say was, "Don't you realize that you've insulted me in one of the worst possible ways???? Do you even like me?"

I happened to catch a few minutes of her show awhile ago--around Thanksgiving time. (I was at the laundromat and therefore had no choice in the matter...)

She was making--get this--Turkey Enchilasagna. It was leftover gravy, turkey, green salsa, and tortillas, and some kind of cheese. I had to try really hard to keep from gagging.

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. No, I'm not a RR fan. Why is everyone else???

Co said...

Your analysis of RR was far more fair-minded than mine would have been. Although admittedly, I lived in rural NC when I was learning to cook meat (I learned to cook vegetarian in college cuz I didn't eat meat -- I gave up when I moved south cuz well, I would've likely starved or only eaten greasy collards). That having been said, I like to make some pretty homey (and sometimes embarassingly lame) foods. But RR annoys me still.

And while I'm not above buying those french-fried onions and canned soup and making green bean casserole (a NC staple), I have never cooked with Ritz crackers.