Southern Rail restaurant turns cauliflower into one meaty vegetable.

Smoked Cauliflower

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Veg Out Issue: May 2016
Group Free


PHM0516EB SC 01Cauliflower, like its sister broccoli, often gets a bad rap. In fact, author Mark Twain once referred to cauliflower as “nothing but cabbage with a college education.” 

At Southern Rail, chef Justin Beckett elevates the cruciferous vegetable to Ph.D. status with his wood-oven-roasted cauliflower ($9), a hearty side dish that could easily pass for an entrée.

Beckett pre-blanches the meaty cauliflower in batches, then pops individual orders in the wood-burning oven to get a smoky char on the surface. He then tosses the al dente cauliflower in a tangy apple gastrique made from apple cider vinegar, apple juice and brown sugar, and rests the florets on a smoked tomato sauce fashioned from house-smoked tomatoes, roasted garlic and olive oil. The unlikely sweet-sour combination of apples and smoked tomato sauce is reminiscent of a light barbecue sauce and pairs in salivating fashion with the smoke-infused vegetable. Finally, Beckett adds tiny drops of pesto made with basil, parsley, pea tendrils, green onions and lemon zest for a zing of garden freshness.

When possible, Beckett sources organic produce from local McClendon’s Select and prefers “graffiti” (purple) or “cheddar” (orange) varieties in place of standard white cauliflower. 

Beckett put the often-maligned vegetable on the menu because he’s a fan. “Also, one of my favorite secret pleasures is making people eat vegetables that they think they don’t like, probably because their parents ruined it for them.” Mission accomplished.