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I’ve had a long love affair with cover songs. Even BAD cover songs. Most people dismiss covers as somehow lazy, uncreative ripoffs of others work. To be fair, the concept of a “cover” is something fairly recent. Once upon a time, we had “standards”, songs written by songwriters and performed by a variety of artists. The shift to record labels and recorded media brought the rise of the division between “original” and “cover”. I believe, if done properly, the “cover” can easily transcend the “original”. This is why, for the first time in Music & Food history, there are TWO inspiration songs for this recipe.
There is no denying the austere beauty in the Mamas & Papas original of “California Dreamin’.” It perfectly evokes a barren cold winter walk. The grey skies, leafless trees and bleakness come through clearly in the rock-folk arrangement and choral vocals. It’s clear, however, the Mamas & Papas are not East Coast winter fans, preferring the left coast. Bobby Womack brings the same bleak feeling, but with a resolute soulfulness of someone who has gotten through NYC winters. He dreams of California but knows he can make it through whatever an NYC winter serves up. Eddie Hazel, on the other hand, gives us the blissed-out psychedelic dream of California. Perhaps it’s just an illusion, perhaps a memory, perhaps a bit of both. Most importantly, Womack and Hazel take an iconic West Coast folk-rock track and give it a decidedly East Coast vibe. For that reason, I give a hat tip to both their versions on this recipe.
I am a big fan of Buffalo Chicken in all its forms – wings, sandwiches, fries (yes – I’ve made Buffalo Chicken Fries). When I started working on plant-based recipes, I started thinking about a Buffalo Chicken cover version. I wanted the crunch, Buffalo kick and blue cheese tang of Buffalo wings in a vegetarian sandwich. I’ve had fried Buffalo Cauliflower in bars but usually found it to be overly battered and way too fried without the intrinsic taste of cauliflower.
Having recently made a roasted cauliflower sandwich, I put together this recipe for a roasted Buffalo cauliflower sandwich using a Buffalo seasoning to amp up the flavor, a blue cheese dressing and carrot pickles to mimic the side veg. The original version of this recipe had the cauliflower roasted as florets. Then I ran into the life-changing whole head roasting method from Dale Talde and flipped the prep on this. It’s a very quick and easy prep with the buffalo sauce made while the cauliflower is roasting. It can be messy to eat, so have a fork and some napkins handy.
Buffalo roasted cauliflower, Buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, carrot pickles, and Aleppo pepper on a soft sub roll
Makes 2 – 3 sandwiches
Take a sub roll. Toast it if you feel like it, but it’s not really necessary. Spread a tablespoon of dressing on the inside of the roll. Fill the roll with Buffalo Cauliflower. This could be up to half of the cauliflower depending on head and floret size. Add a tablespoon or so of julienne carrot pickles. Drizzle a bit of extra dressing. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and Aleppo pepper flakes.
2-3 soft sub rolls
Buffalo Cauliflower (see recipe below)
Blue Cheese Dressing (see recipe below)
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Aleppo pepper flakes
1 large head cauliflower, leaves and stem trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Buffalo Seasoning (see recipe below)
1/4 cup butter, cold and sliced into 8 pieces
1/4 cup cayenne-based hot sauce (Frank’s Original Hot Sauce is traditional – I use Trappey’s Red Devil)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is best but sweet will do)
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all seasoning ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a spoon or your fingers to combine. Set aside.
Take 1/3 cup of carrot pickles and slice into matchsticks. Set aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F.
Place the cauliflower, stem side down, onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the top to coat, then sprinkle with Buffalo Spice. Roast until tender and browned on top, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
When cauliflower is cool enough to handle, cut the florets into bite-size pieces. They should be small enough to go easily into the hot pocket, but not chopped fine. Think small chicken nuggets. Cut the stem small chunks.
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the hot sauce and cauliflower over medium heat, tossing to coat. When the sauce begins to bubble, add the butter. Continue cooking, tossing and stirring, until the butter melts and the sauce gets creamy and glossy. Add the salt and garlic powder and toss to combine. Let simmer a minute before serving.
Blue cheese dressing
Makes about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup sour cream
2 TBS mayonnaise
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
3 ounces good-quality blue cheese (I prefer Gorgonzola), crumbled
Water to thin if needed
Place blue cheese and cider vinegar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until cheese is turned into a uniform paste. Add sour cream and mayo and blend until smooth. Thin with a bit of water if needed. Set aside in the refrigerator.