Cauliflower Poutine

This is the second post in a series that I'm calling "Cauliflower is Bar Food". My mission: to take classic bar fare and reinvent it with cauliflower. The first was my Margarita Cauliflower, which is roasted in tequila and kissed with citrus. Up for today: Cauliflower Poutine!

Some of you are probably asking "what the heck is poutine??". It's actually a classic late-night snack from Quebec, Canada, but it has made its way down to Vermont (and elsewhere in New England). The premise is simple: fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Refer to the movie Super Troopers if you need an example (and if you want to poke fun at my home state).

Given that I haven't eaten meat in almost 25 years, I've actually never had poutine, and this makes me upset! I feel like I've been missing out. So my mission became to remake poutine in a way that is still super satisfying and indulgent, but more nourishing to the body than the original, and that is vegetarian and easily vegan.

My version of poutine has the same three elements, albeit with some twists. Instead of fries, I'm using roasted cauliflower. Instead of classic gravy, I'm using a vegan kabocha squash "gravy". I've kept the cheese curds since I'm a good Vermonter, but you can easily veganize this recipe by leaving off the cheese curds if that's how you roll.

This cauliflower poutine has all the makings of perfect bar food. It's rich, caramelized, salty, and indulgent. The curds are creamy and so decadent. The kabocha squash gravy is loaded with flavor and has the smoothest texture.

I think I've made this three or four times in the past couple months; we're obsessed. It's the most wonderful winter Friday night food. Come home after a long week, make a Vermont Old Fashioned to sip on while you cook, and then reward yourself with the most decadent bar food that won't leave you feeling weighed-down afterward.

One important note. This recipe makes a lot of kabocha squash gravy, since a kabocha squash is generally pretty big. You can easily freeze any extra and use it on anything that would benefit from a creamy sauce (or, let's be honest, next Friday's cauliflower poutine date night, which seems to be becoming a thing in our house). You can also easily make the gravy ahead of time, which will allow you to pull the dish together more quickly on the day of.

Cheers! Cauliflower is bar food!

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram.

Loving the idea of reinvented bar fare? It's one of my favorite things to make! Check out these Patatas Bravas, which are my spin on the classic Spanish tapas dish.

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)
  • Kabocha squash. Or use a red kuri squash, they're really similar.
  • Oil of choice for roasting and sauteeing
  • Medium sweet onion
  • 2 c liquid of choice. Water is totally fine if that's all you have available. Veggie broth works great, or unsweetened/unflavored nut milk is the most indulgent option.
  • Generous salt and black pepper throughout
  • Cauliflower. Assume one head per person if it's a meal, or half a head per person for robust snack, less than that for nibbling.
  • Cheese curds. I can usually find them at our farmers market. If you can't find them, shredded cheddar or your favorite vegan cheddar will work fine too.
  • Couple sprigs of thyme. Optional. Traditional poutine certainly doesn't have fresh herbs, so leave it off it you want to stay classic. I like adding thyme for a little pop of freshness though.
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Cut the kabocha squash around its equator and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Roast the squash halves cut-side down on an oiled sheet tray for 30-45 minutes until very soft. They can vary greatly in size, which will determine how long they take to roast.
  4. When the squash is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool at least partially for easier handling.
  5. Cut your cauliflower into florets. For the bigger florets, cut them in halves or thirds for even cooking.
  6. Lay the cauliflower florets on the sheet tray in a single layer; they won't brown if they're overlapping. Salt generously.
  7. Roast for about 30-45 minutes until tender and browned.
  8. While the cauliflower is roasting, dice the onion. Caramelize it in a soup pot with liberal salt and pepper.
  9. When the onion is done, add ~2 c of liquid and start bringing it to a boil. Add additional salt and pepper.
  10. Scoop out the inside flesh of the squash and add it to the soup pot. Note that you can eat the skin of a kabocha, and it's actually delicious, so please save it! My suggestion is to treat it like potato skins and load them with all your favorite toppings.
  11. Once everything has come to a boil, turn the heat off and blend it all with an immersion blender until a very thick, creamy gravy develops. Note that a standard blender is fine here too, but you'll need to work in batches. The kabocha is soft enough that a high-power blender isn't necessary.
  12. Assess the consistency of your gravy. If you want it to be a little looser, add more liquid until you get to your desired consistency. Add additional salt and pepper as you see fit.
  13. Simmer the gravy for another 10-15 minutes after blending, or until the cauliflower is done.
  14. Once the cauliflower is done, lay it out on a serving platter or perhaps in a smaller sheet tray with a rim. Smother it with a few ladles of gravy. Top it all with cheese curds and some freshly-ground black pepper. Garnish with a few leaves of fresh thyme.


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