Thursday, March 5, 2009

Desperately Seeking Cauliflower

Like most kids I grew up despising vegetables. Probably because my mother's idea of preparing vegetables was opening a can, pouring in a bowl and microwaving. I don't recall seeing a fresh vegetable (other than potatoes) in the house when I was growing up.

We didn't eat out much either which knocked out another opportunity to eat good vegetables. When we did eat out, we either went to Sirloin Stockade (I'm sure it's as nasty as it sounds), El Mexico (a little Wichita Mexican restaurant that thankfully closed this past year, about 5 years too late) or this little Wichita diner called Livington's (which is still around albeit in a bigger location). When we went to Livingston's my parents always ordered some mystery appetizer. It was fried and golden brown and served with a bowl of cocktail sauce. My parents and brothers wouldn't tell me what it was, I guess it was their way of making me try something new. They just told me I would like it. And like it I did. I craved it all the time even though I had no idea what it was (this could also describe my want of some vagine, but I knew how to sate that desire by myself). I couldn't wait to go back to Livingston's. It was my favorite place to eat in those days (they also had great fries, and still do). Finally after 7 or 8 trips to Livingston's I figured out, by the process of elimination (I studied that menu like XO studies porn), what this wonderful fried delicacy was; french fried cauliflower.

To this day, I can tell you every restaurant I've been to that has fried cauliflower (I always confuse waitresses and counterpeople because I order french fried cauliflower). When I moved to KC, the first place I found it was Zarda, leading me to eat at Zarda a lot more than one theoretically should (I used to eat Gates for lunch and Zarda for dinner). When my work moved downtown I found Antonio's in the City Center Square food court had fried cauliflower. When you order it, the person in the back opens up the freezer and dumps a bunch in the fryer. They then serve it to you with some crappy ranch dressing. I have taken to grabbing cocktail sauce packets when I'm out and about so I can enjoy the Antonio's version the way I want. I get weird looks at Zarda when I ask for cocktail sauce with my cauliflower, but they comply once they find some (it's in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf).

We've tried making fried cauliflower at home of course. It's really pretty easy, you just break the cauliflower up into small chunks, salt and pepper, dip in egg and then flour. The more even the size of the cauliflower the more even it cooks. It's very difficult to get the cauliflower cooked perfectly in every piece, some are cooked well and others have still raw cauliflower. I guess that is why it is such a rare food item to find on menus. It's never quite as satisfying as the Livingston's version was. Maybe fried cauliflower is like heroin, it's never as good as it is the first time.

Sadly, Livingston's in Wichita no longer carries the french fried cauliflower, but they make a wonderful hamburger. But, through their 15 years of serving french fried cauliflower, they've made me a fan of at least one vegetable. I will eat cauliflower in nearly every form now, raw, cooked, cauliflower au gratin (RJ's has this). I'd be interested in finding someplace that makes their own fried cauliflower and doesn't use frozen.


Chimpotle said...

In-A-Tub has it, but I'm sure it's frozen. They also have a fried version of frozen mixed vegetables.

Bull E. Vard said...

In-A-Tub serves it with nacho cheese. It was pretty good.

m.v. said...

I like cauliflower fried, raw, in a soup and my mom also makes a salad with it,eggs and chicken. all very good.

Donna said...

Smokestack Barbecue, across from Independence Center, serves fried cauliflower. I order it as my main dish and let everybody else have the barbecue stuff. They serve it with Ranch dressing, and I'm sure it's frozen when they get it.

Sam's Club has it frozen. The only reason I don't buy it there is that I know I'd eat it all at one sitting.