Around here, Saturday lunch is a fend-for-yourself meal. For me, it usually involves oatmeal, roasted vegetables, or whatever leftovers are rattling around in the fridge. Mike, on the other hand, uses Saturday lunch to eat the sort of convenience foods that we never have for dinner: frozen pizza, tater tots, fried chicken from the grocery store deli, and chicken nuggets dipped in hot sauce. For awhile, he was buying dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets (they were apparently a really good deal) but he has since transitioned to an off-brand that is even cheaper. He rotates through hot sauce varieties--sometimes Frank's Red Hot, sometimes the original Anchor Bar Wing Sauce, sometimes a bottle he impulse-purchased at a farmer's market--but never anything fancy. These bargain chicken nuggets dipped in hot sauce should not, objectively, be all that irresistible. But for some reason, I always find myself begging for a bite (I also eat the crusts from Mike's slices of pizza, but that's a whole other blog post).
I'm pretty sure it's not the chicken I'm craving; it's the hot sauce. And while I'm generally skeptical of meat replacement-style vegetarian recipes, a recipe from the Kitchn for Buffalo Cauliflower Lettuce Wraps piqued my interest. Could roasted cauliflower really work as a stand-in for chicken?
In a word, yes. Mike gleefully ate two-thirds of the batch.
The substitution works because roasted cauliflower has a slightly chewy texture somewhat similar to chicken. Roasting mellows the cauliflower's raw, cabbage-like flavor into a subtle sweetness that makes a good base for hot sauce. One caveat: you do need to eat these with a fork, since roasted cauliflower just doesn't have the structural integrity of a chicken wing.
I've simplified the original recipe, which called for much smaller pieces of cauliflower and arranging the finished product in lettuce cups, partly because I wanted something sized more like a chicken wing and partly because I was feeling lazy. One nice thing about my version is that it's not too much work--not more than 10 minutes prep time and 20 of minutes roasting time. Perfect for a Saturday lunch, or an easy vegetarian snack for game day.
Adapted from the Kitchn
- 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into large (2-3 inch) florets
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- blue cheese dressing for serving, if desired
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rimmed baking sheet in oven while it heats.
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt until well-coated. Turn cauliflower onto the heated baking sheet. Roast until cauliflower is tender with brown spots, stirring halfway, about 20 minutes total.
Meanwhile, combine the hot sauce and butter and heat in microwave until butter is melted.
Toss the roasted cauliflower with the prepared hot sauce mixture. Serve immediately, with blue cheese dressing if desired.