I like cauliflower. Really, I do. But as I’ve said before, Stephen’s not too crazy about it. The big exception (other than the pasta dish I link to above): Fried cauliflower, on the buffet for holiday celebrations at his mom’s. The florets, pre-cooked until just tender, are dipped in an eggy batter and pan-fried. They’re soft inside, but not cabbage-y, and the coating has just enough grease to make one lick one’s fingers surreptitiously. This, he likes. And so do I—the holiday spreads typically include lots of cheesy, dip-py things, which ain’t exactly my cup of tea, so I wind up eating my weight in fried goodness, hiding the crumpled, greasy napkins in my pocket so nobody will realize who scarfed all the cauliflower.
These pancakes are inspired by that dish. Dipping things in batter is just a little too messy for me with a preschooler underfoot, so I changed things up a bit—I precooked the cauliflower just the same, but mashed it and added loads of parmesan, some eggs, and just enough flour to bind everything together. They turned out just as I’d hoped, with a nicely crispy outside, a lovely, toothy texture from the mashed cauliflower (which even mashed, still holds some shape), and a mellow, salty undertone from the parm. And with a little lemon juice on top, they’re even better.
Parmesan Cauliflower Fritters
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into medium-sized florets
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
1/3-1/2 cup flour
olive oil for pan-frying
lemon wedges (optional)
Steam cauliflower until it’s completely soft, either in microwave or on stovetop. This should take 10-15 minutes. Let it cool slightly, then mash the heck out of it in a big bowl. If there are stems that simply won’t break down, pick them out (and eat them—chef’s treat). Cool almost to room temperature.
Add beaten eggs, Parmesan, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Add flour by heaping tablespoons—the final amount you use will depend on how moist your cauliflower is. You want this to be quite thick, closer to the consistency of raw meatballs than pancake batter. Set aside for 10 minutes to let the flour absorb fully.
Cover your largest skillet with a thin layer of olive oil, and place over medium heat. When it’s shimmering hot, add large spoonfuls of the cauliflower mixture (I used a serving spoon) and flatten into a pancake. Don’t overcrowd the pan, or the oil temperature will lower too much and your results will be greasy. When browned on one side, after 5-7 minutes, flip and cook on the other side until it’s brown too, another 5-6 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining cauliflower mixture until it’s all gone—I got a dozen pancakes out of one medium-sized cauliflower.
Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with lemon juice, if desired.