I saw some Cauliflower Melts on Epicurious the other day that looked so melty that I had to make them. This is the time of year when anything with melted cheese (or hello, chocolate) catches our eye. We tramp in from the cold, stomping our feet to get the snow off, our bodies shivering as we peel off layers of wet clothes. And then we see melty cheese, hot from the oven, blanketing a little morsel underneath. We hardly want to take the time to slip into dry clothes before sitting down to eat.
I made a few changes, because I can’t help it, but I’m sure the original recipe is as good as it looks. I added some apples sautéed in butter, added some pepitas and garlic to the raisins, and smeared a little prepared horseradish on the bread for a little contrasting bite. Oh, and I made them into little two to three bite appetizers.
It took four tries, people, to get this where it could be served as a party appetizer that guests could eat standing up with nothing more than a cocktail napkin. First they were too crispy and broke into pieces with the first bite. Then the cauliflower florets were too high to get one’s mouth around unless it’s Don Knotts’ mouth. And one version experimented with a mayonnaise based spread that frankly just didn’t taste great. So I’ve got some tips.
For party appetizers, only toast one side of the bread. If both sides are toasted, the appetizer has a tendency to crumple with the first bite.
Adjust the amount of horseradish spread to suit you, but you’ll need 1/4 tsp just to be aware that it’s there. If you prefer mayo, have at it.
The cauliflower must go on last, just before the cheese. Otherwise the raisin mixture will roll right off the little bite onto the baking sheet.
Divide each larger floret into 3 slabs, slicing them through the stalks. The stalk holds it together. Shave off the tops of the florets so that they don’t exceed 3/4″ in height.
Use thin sheets of cheese. Grated cheese has a very difficult time staying on, and will only cover the cauliflower very unevenly. I buy them them pre sliced and interleaved with paper, and cut each square into 4 pieces. Each quarter piece is draped over a cauliflower floret.
If you must, then I have one word for you: bacon. Crumble up a couple slices of crispy bacon with the raisin mixture and follow the remaining instructions as written.
Cauliflower Apple Cheddar Melts
- 1 baguette of French bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cauliflower
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 apples I recommend Pink Lady (or Lady, Honey Crisp, or Fuji)
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 3 Tbsp pepitas
- Prepared horseradish
- Cheddar cheese slices cut into 4 pieces
- Turn on the broiler and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the baguette into 3/4" slices. I slice them slightly on a diagonal to make them slightly larger and more attractive. Light brush the tops with olive oil, and broil until toasted. They should be well-toasted since you're only toasting one side. Set aside.
- Heat the oven to 350˚F and line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove each large floret from the stalk, and carefully slice into 3 small slabs through the stalk of the floret. Two of the slabs, when laid flat on a table, have the rounded tops of the floret. Shave it off to flatten, making the cauliflower pieces equal thicknesses of roughly 1/2 inch. Gently rub them all over with olive oil, and lay them on the second baking sheet. Lightly dust them with salt and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes. Flip them over and roast until tender, about another 10 minutes.
- Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Core the apples and thinly slice, leaving on the skin. Salute the apple slices until tender, about three minutes. Remove from the pan and saute the garlic, raisins and pepitas until warm and fragrant, about two minutes.
- To assemble:
- Smear at least 1/4 tsp Prepared Horseradish on the untoasted side of each of the bread slices. Lay 2 apple slices on top, arrange 1 tsp of the raisin mixture on top of the apples, and anchor with a floret piece of cauliflower. Drape a piece of cheese over the top of each floret. Slide into the oven (still at 350˚F) and bake until the cheese has melted, about 3 - 4 minutes.
- Serve warm.