Battered deep-fried cauliflower (‘cavolfiore in pastella,’ in Italian) is an appetizing side dish which originates in Sicily but can be found in many variations all around Italy.
Out of the various kinds of batter, this recipe describes one that is quite opaque—without being too thick—especially suitable for vegetables (including zucchini flowers, which are fantastic, by-the-way!)
Deep-fried batter has a bad reputation for being heavy. However, if the oil is at the proper temperature, it sears immediately and any excess hot oil (with its lower viscosity) drips right off with draining. Still, the resulting dish is relatively high in calories and generally served in small amounts as a side, or as a vegetarian entrée.
The use of olive oil for deep-frying is somewhat controversial due to its relatively low smoke point. However, if you can control the temperature, olive oil is suitable for frying vegetables (which don’t need to reach extremely high temperatures) and brings an amazing extra flavor to the dish. Out of the different kinds of olive oil, non-extra virgin (or even non-vergin) olive oils are preferred for frying since they have a relatively higher smoke point at a lower price point!
- 1 medium cauliflower (about 800 g), divided in florets
- 75 g (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
- 30 g (2 Tbsp) butter, melted
- 100 ml (scant 1/2 cup) milk
- 1 egg white
- 1 l olive oil (use a non-extra virgin oil for a higher smoke point)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and the melted butter obtaining a crumbly texture.
- Incorporate just enough milk to create a thick cream, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk.
- Whip the egg white until firm (for best results, use an egg at room temperature).
- Gently incorporate the whipped egg white, a tablespoon at a time, mixing from the bottom to the top. Season with a pinch of table salt.
- Boil the cauliflower florets for 10 minutes until cooked but still firm.
- Bring olive oil to frying temperature (if you have a thermometer, reach 150 °C; if you don't, wait 3-4 minutes at medium heat then test the oil with a drop of batter.) Dip a few florets at a time in the batter, shaking off any excess. Then deep-fry the battered florets until golden brown.
- Allow the fried florets to dry for 5 minutes on a sheet of paper towel before serving them.