If this recipe for Cauliflower with Brown Butter, Pear, Sage, and Hazelnuts sounds familiar, maybe it's because you've seen or even bought chef Andrew Carmellini and wife Gwen Hyman's beautiful book Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food. Or maybe you're a long-time reader of Fine Cooking and remember it from the September 2008 issue, where it was doubled for presentation as a Thanksgiving side dish. That's where I first learned about it.
Maybe you remember the link from our own Thanksgiving roundup of cruciferous sides. But it's also possible that you know about this recipe simply because you've been somewhere in my general vicinity at some brief moment since last November. Goodness knows I haven't stopped talking about it since I first sank my teeth into a bite.
There's no question this side-dish is special enough for a holiday table, but the best part is that it's also simple and quick enough to include in a regular dinner, any night of the week. There probably won't be leftovers, but if there are, they are quite versatile. You can even bake them together with some al dente short pasta, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella to breathe a whole new life into what's left of them. Cauliflower may be brainy food, but no one will be the wiser.
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 4 fresh sage leaves, julienned
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium firm-ripe Bosc pear
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Set heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Pour in hazelnuts. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until skins have turned dark brown in spots and begun to split, about 15 minutes. While hot, carefully pour hazelnuts into center of clean dishtowel. Rub together to remove skins. When hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, finely chop and set aside.
Wipe out skillet to remove any hazelnut bits. Set over medium-high heat. Add butter and cook until bubbly and beginning to turn brown. Add cauliflower, sage, chopped hazelnuts, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and has caramelized in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.
Quarter and core pear and slice thinly. Add pear and parsley to cauliflower mixture, stir to distribute, and taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.