(Note: this post was originally published on September 8, 2019. The photos were updated when the post was migrated to the new platform on the date above).
Cauliflower Bar Food???
I've recently come to an important conclusion: cauliflower is the new "bar food". It's nutty, crunchy, comforting, and can be dressed up in an endless variety of ways. Move over fries! Cauliflower is here and wants a seat at the bar.
I'm now on a mission to develop some addicting bar snacks using cauliflower. First up in the series: this awesome Margarita Cauliflower, designed to go alongside margaritas and other Mexican-inspired beverages. It's bright and citrusy, yet also deep and roasty.
Oh, and most importantly, it's bathed in tequila!
The Magic of Roasting
In my opinion, the key to making cauliflower decadent and succulent is roasting. Something magical happens when you roast it at high temperature; it becomes tender, packed with flavor, and develops crisp edges that make it feel almost fried. Look at those gorgeous florets! I can honestly say that roasted cauliflower like this is just as indulgent and satisfying as fries.
These tasty browned surfaces and crispy edges are classic bar food! Don't get me wrong, I adore tortilla chips and sweet potato fries, but I try not to make a meal out of them (too often...). But I can inhale plates of roasted cauliflower, have that same sense of indulgent bar food, and not feel like a dehydrated salt block the day after.
If you have an air-fryer, it's a great option for this recipe. Cauliflower in the air fryer is magical AND faster. I like to fry it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. However, you won't be able to fit as much in, so it might be a better option if you're only making this for a couple people. Also, you won't be able to cook off the tequila in quite the same way, so use less tequila and just toss the cauli in it at the end.
This Margarita Cauliflower is indulgent and loaded with all the flavors of a margarita: tequila, lime, and salt! First, you'll roast the cauliflower to perfection. Then, you'll give it a flavorful bath in tequila and lime zest, plus lots of salt and pepper, and let that cook off for a few minutes. Finally, you'll give it a big kiss of lime juice after cooking.
Next up, the garnishes! I like to scatter citrus slices throughout the cauliflower to keep it moist; then I serve the citrus with individual portions for squeezing. I also love some freshness, so I always add really finely chopped cilantro and/or mint. I often add a handful of pepitas and sometimes slices of avocado. But of course you can do what you love here; the garnishes are really the fun part! Feel free to add a drizzle of hot sauce if you like things spicy, or perhaps a sprinkling of queso fresco or feta.
You can also serve this up with some sauce on the side for dipping. All good bar food should have a dip, right?? I often serve it with guac, or sometimes salsa verde.
Tips and Tricks
I've made this recipe a LOT of times, so I have a few tips to pass along. First off, if you want those beautifully golden surfaces, make sure your cauli has a lot of surface area on the roasting pan and use a metal baking sheet. It won't brown if it doesn't have contact with the metal, so split it between two sheets if needed.
Second, cauliflower can sometimes get dry, so adding moisture is key... but you want to let it brown first, and only add moisture after. You'll see in the recipe that you'll douse the cauliflower in tequila and return it to the oven for a few minutes. This is an important place to use your best judgement; if you think it needs more moisture, it probably does! Don't hesitate to add an additional pour of tequila, a splash of water, or some extra citrus juice. Make sure you let it sit in its flavorful bath for a couple minutes so that all that delightful flavor gets absorbed.
Finally, you can easily make a few heads of cauliflower if you'll be feeding a crowd. If you don't have a platter big enough, just pile it all on your biggest sheet tray to serve.
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Cauliflower. You can use white, yellow, purple, or a combination. I'd suggest half ahead per person for robust appetizers, less than that for nibbling.
Oil. For roasting. I like to use coconut oil, but anything that can go to high temperature is fine.
Tequila. Optional but awesome! You'll use this to moisten the cauliflower at the end of the roasting time, then cook it off. If you'd rather not use tequila, use a splash of veggie stock, since that added moisture is important.
Lime. You'll use both the zest and juice.
Salt and pepper
Cilantro and/or mint. It's great with either, so use what you love. Definitely use fresh herbs!
Avocado. Or, you can serve some guac on the side for dipping, but I love the richness that avocado or guac bring to this dish.
Roasted salted pepitas
Other garnishes? Optional. Think things like hot sauce, queso fresco, etc.
I'm so excited to be sharing this recipe with you. It's one I make again and again and again because it can become so many things. Of course it's great as a happy hour snack, but it's also a wonderful side dish, and I love adding extras to a burrito bowl the next day.
My advice? Make this on a Saturday evening when you want to stay in but are secretly craving a going-out vibe. Pair it with some margaritas and guac or salsa for an instant tequila bar vibe. It's great either alongside chips or instead of chips. Either way, it's an excellent happy hour snack!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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This cauliflower finger food is perfectly roasted, then kissed with citrus (and a splash of tequila, if you like!). Serve it up with some margaritas for the most delightful Mexican-inspired happy hour around.
Preheat the oven to 450 and oil a large sheet tray.
Cut your cauliflower into florets. For the bigger florets, cut them in halves or thirds for even cooking.
Lay the cauliflower florets on the sheet tray in a single layer; they won't brown if they're overlapping.
Roast at 450 for about 30-35 minutes until tender and browned.
Remove the sheet tray from the oven and drizzle the cauliflower with tequila. Add lime zest and generous salt and pepper.
Return it to the oven for another 5 minutes to cook off the tequila.
Remove the sheet tray from the oven and drizzle the cauliflower with lime juice.
Transfer the cauliflower to a serving platter. Arrange citrus slices throughout the cauliflower for squeezing over individual portions. Garnish with fresh finely-chopped herbs, avocado slices, pepitas, and an optional drizzle of hot sauce.