Cauliflower “Wings” and Home Frying

By on 1 July, 2019 in Cooking, Food, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

Buffalo sauce is delicious. No matter the brand, it’s always good – unless you try to be a hero and eat something above your heat tolerance. Something else that’s generally delicious (if not healthy) is fried food. For the non-vegetarians out there, these often find an optimal mix in chicken wings. Which, judging by the sheer number of wings restaurants in Montgomery, is one of our city’s very favorite foods.

The thing is, we don’t eat chicken wings. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to their charms. A few years ago, we tried to make vegetarian “wings” by breading, baking, and saucing pieces of cauliflower. Although cauliflower is an excellent flavor chameleon, we were underwhelmed. Sure, the buffalo sauce was good, but even though we cooked the chunks in a very hot oven for as long as we dared, they ended up a soggy disappointment.

But recently, one of us came home from an Atlanta business trip saying that great cauliflower wings weren’t just hypothetical – the Hard Rock Cafe had this thing figured out.

Their recipe is online. It did not look difficult (though it seemed formulated to feed dozens), but there was one catch. We’d suspected this all along, but now it was clear – deep frying was actually key to the process.

In the decade-plus we’ve lived in this house, we’d never deep fried anything. We worried about the oil, mostly – would it smell bad? How to dispose of it? Would it catch on fire? But, as regular readers of this blog know, we’re not ones to shirk a kitchen challenge.

In the end, it was easy. Of course it was – people fry food all the time. You don’t need any fancy kitchen stuff to do it. You heat up the oil. This takes a surprisingly long time, but you can use that time to prepare the wings.

Basically, you first dismember a head of cauliflower. Then you toss the florets in some flour. Once the oil’s hot, the florets go into an egg/milk mix, then into some seasoned breadcrumbs, and into the oil. Do that last part gently, and fry them in batches. The recipe says to fry for 4 minutes, but we got best results at 6-7 minutes. Drain them a bit on paper towels and toss in buffalo sauce.

Such a big fuss over such an easy thing. The Internet told us we could re-use the oil (but not too many times) and gave us options for proper disposal. Don’t pour that stuff down the drain or right into the trash, folks.

Not chicken wings, but to our minds, even better. Unlike wings, which some people eat as a main course, this is an ideal appetizer, best when sharing with friends. If you have folks in your life who like adventurous eating, invite a few of them over and give this a try! It’s delicious!

Wait, don’t stop reading – and DON’T PUT OIL DOWN THE DRAIN!

About frying, it is worth knowing that home chefs are highly, highly discouraged from pouring oil down the sink drain. Evidently it congeals in your pipes (or someone else’s) and can cause expensive repairs. Or it jams up our city wastewater treatment facilities. Or, worse, it gets into the groundwater and Alabama’s many beautiful rivers. This can happen if you just throw the stuff into your trash. Also, composting isn’t recommended for cooking oil.

Given that this is how folks deal with most liquid kitchen waste, it’s worth having a plan to deal with the oil. We just put it back in the bottle and threw it away all sealed up. But it seems like there was a better option.

The good news is that the city has a program called “grecycling.” You just get a free jug at any of 14 locations all over the city, fill it, and return. And it’s not just a city program – it’s part of how the Environmental Protection Agency is enforcing the Clean Water Act through something called the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Specifically, it’s the National Pretreatment Program, which seems to be a partnership with the City of Montgomery.

This is interesting enough to warrant its own post. Especially now that we want to know where the oil goes once you pass it on to our trusted and reliable government officials. Stay tuned!

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