From Challa-Peño, A Mother and Daughter in the Mexican Jewish Kitchen
by Alexandra and Susan Schmidt
I make this recipe as a treat year-round, for Shabbat and Passover. I always worry that I make it too often, but when I don’t, the complaints roll in. Since we’re so limited at Passover, when we’re sick of the typical starches and kugels, this is a very refreshing taste. It’s a unique recipe that neither I nor my family have seen in any restaurant. I learned it from Doña Tere, a beloved housekeeper who had a place in my and my mother’s home for over 20 years. One of my favorite parts is making an omelet with the leftover batter and bits of cauliflower. - Susan
There are a few key parts to this recipe, and they’re all about frying. Stay with me!
• First, pat the florets very dry. This is to make sure the batter sticks.
• Second, be ready to start frying the florets as soon as possible after the batter is made.
• And third, keep the temperature of the oil right while frying.
Having the pan with hot oil ready before you start dipping the florets in batter is definitely the way to do this. That way, you just drop each floret in the pan as you go (the longer you let the batter sit, the more it loses its consistency).
Using wooden spoons with soft edges helped me keep the texture uniform on the florets, with the perfect mix of golden color and fluffy consistency. - Alex
1 large cauliflower head
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 large egg whites
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup canola oil
For the sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 white onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
4 large ripe tomatoes, diced, about 4 cups
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder*
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Cut the cauliflower in half and separate the florets, keeping the stems intact. Cut large florets in half, lengthwise, so that each one is about 2 inches thick and uniform in size. Thoroughly rinse florets in colander. Place the florets in a medium pot with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and add enough cold water to cover. Bring water to a boil over high heat and cook cauliflower for 8-10 minutes uncovered, until just tender – a fork should pierce the floret without resistance. Drain cauliflower in a colander, rinse under cold water shaking out excess water. Pat the cauliflower very dry and set aside.
For the batter: In a large bowl beat the egg whites, 2 tablespoons cold water, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt using an electric mixer set at low speed for 45 seconds until foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat until very firm and stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks, reduce the speed to medium and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Line a platter with paper towels and place it next to the stove. In a 10-inch saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Generously dip florets into egg batter until completely coated and carefully add to hot oil as you go, about 5-6 florets at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. While frying the florets, keep temperature of the oil just lightly sizzling, increasing or decreasing the flame as needed. With a couple of metal tongs or long wooden spoons, gently turn the florets on all sides about 1-2 minutes, or until the florets have golden brown edges. Carefully transfer the florets to the paper towel-lined platter. Between batches remove the saucepan from heat and wipe the tongs with paper towels. When ready to fry another batch, add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high and fry another 5 to 6 florets as directed.
To make the sauce: Empty saucepan of hot oil, wash and dry, and return to stove top over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, the onions and cook until just translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine, cooking about 2 minutes until slightly mushy. Then add 1/4 cup cold water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. After the tomatoes have released their liquid, about 2 minutes, add bouillon and 1/2 cup more of water. Stir until completely dissolved and add red pepper flakes and salt. The sauce is done once it has a thick, chunky consistency, about 5 minutes. Place fried cauliflower florets in a serving dish and spoon evenly with sauce.
Yield: Serves 6-8
*For a parve version: use chicken bouillon powder
Recipes: Side Dishes, Vegetables, Cauliflower, Meat or Parve, Kosher