TasteFood

Sometimes, a fluffy, creamy side dish is called for, and potatoes just won't do the trick (shocker). It may simply be that potatoes are not the perfect match to the accompaniment, or the cuisine may not traditionally include potatoes, or (no judgment) you binged on a bowl of spuds last night and want to take a breather.

Enter cauliflower. There's something magical about this gnarly crucifer. Eaten raw, its flavor is barely pronounced -- a little nutty, a bit grassy and unmistakably cruciferous. When steamed or roasted, cauliflower transforms into something else entirely, morphing into a sweetened, buttery and juicy version of itself. When pureed, these flavors converge in a light and delicate mousse, minus the weight and starch of mashed potatoes. It's a great alternative to ubiquitous russets and pairs equally well with just about anything as a side dish.

The chicken stock adds extra flavor to the puree. If you prefer a vegetarian version, simply use water and adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Cauliflower Puree

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 3 cups (approximate)

1 large head cauliflower, about 2 1/2 pounds, florets and core cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cups chicken stock

1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, loosely packed

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

Fresh thyme leaves

Combine the cauliflower and chicken stock in a large pot. Cover the pot, bringing the stock to a boil, and simmer over medium-low heat until the cauliflower is very tender, about 20 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the chicken stock and process until smooth. Add the cheese, garlic, butter, salt and pepper and process to blend. If the puree is too thick, add additional stock, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve a light and smooth consistency.

Serve garnished with fresh thyme leaves and extra black pepper.

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