In the Beginning There Was Buffalo Cauliflower, and It Was Very Good

June 14, 2021

In the Beginning There Was Buffalo Cauliflower, and It Was Very Good

Words, recipe, and video by John Tufts.

What is Buffalo sauce anyway?  You’d think given its relatively recent invention it’d be easy to trace its origins.  But you wanna know something?  It’s easier to draw a line to the birth of the baked potato than to the Buffalo wing.  

On the one hand there is the commonly accepted origin story of this spicy, fried bar staple. It was a dark and stormy night in the mid 1960s when a bar owner in Buffalo, NY whipped them up in a pinch after a food supplier got a delivery wrong.  Faced with a supply of wing joints, the owner was tasked with making-due, and, bing!, Buffalo wings were born.  There’s no reason to doubt the substance of the story, but was it really the birth of the Buffalo wing?  Another story, also in Buffalo, was that a man named John Young, who opened a restaurant called Wings and Things, served fried chicken wings in a spicy, vinegary sauce based on wings he’d heard about in Washington D.C.  

So, two stories, both about fried wings in spicy sauce, and both in Buffalo—which to believe?  Honestly, I don’t know, y’all.  I like to think of food mythology a lot like ancient mythology.  Maybe it’s all born out of some collective culinary consciousness.  Just like two Bronze age cultures thousands of miles apart can each have remarkably similar flood myths, so two bars in Buffalo can independently fry up a spicy wing and claim to be its almighty inventor.

Whew!  How ‘bout that, gang?  A food blog that eludes to sociology, Gilgamesh, and chicken wings in the first 300 words?  Sign me up for this page turner!  What’ll make this little piece of writing all the more baffling to you, reader, is that my subject isn’t even the Buffalo wing.  It’s Buffalo cauliflower!  So not only have I buried the lead, I’ve buried the lead somewhere between ancient Sumer and upstate New York.  But stay with me, friends, because there is a point. If there’s an argument for the collective culinary consciousness, it’s foods that are ‘on-trend.’  They come out of nowhere and everywhere at the same time.  Whether it’s chopped kale salad, avocado toast, pasta primavera, or a cheese ball, they seem unheard of one day and ubiquitous the next.

Buffalo Cauliflower is one such trend.  5 years ago, nobody thought about it, and now it leaps around Instagram profiles like a cat-pic.  Cauliflower in general seems to be having a moment.  When I was a kid my talented chef mother would try everything under the sun to get us to eat it.  She was a GREAT cook, and we were not picky eaters, yet at the end of the day all I could see when I looked at this pallid vegetable was broccoli that didn’t get outside much.  Now cauliflower is everywhere.   We make crusts out of it! It’s a vegetarian substitute for steak at steakhouses!  It’s as though the cauliflower lobby held a secret meeting to brainstorm marketing it to a generation of Americans who previously thought of it as the weird lovechild of Mr. Broccoli and his side-chick, Lady Cabbage.  


Whatever that secret cauliflower caucus may have cooked up, one of my favorites is the Buffalo version.  It’s ridiculously simple—you roast some seasoned cauliflower, brush on the sauce, and roast it some more.  It’s great for weeknights, an afternoon snack, or an hors d’oeuvre for whenever the world gets to a point where you might serve an hors d’oeuvre again. Like the Buffalo wing it’s a dish with no clear origin. Was it an inventive chef, a marketing team, some influencer in Silver Lake, or Gilgamesh?  Most likely it was a bunch of Americans who, independent of one another, collectively said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And the answer was yes.  And it was very good.

INGREDIENTS
•    1 head cauliflower
•    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
•    1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
•    2 teaspoons garlic powder
•    1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
•    1/4 tsp of cumin
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    1/2 teaspoon pepper
•    3/4 cup of buttermilk
•    1/4 cup buffalo sauce or your favorite hot sauce
•    2 tablespoons of melted butter
•    1 tablespoon honey

INSTRUCTIONS
1.     Preheat the oven to 450º.  Convection if you’ve got it.
2.    In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, spices, salt/pepper, and buttermilk until smooth.  
3.    Break up the cauliflower into florets and toss into the batter.
4.    Evenly coat the cauliflower in the batter, then place the individual florets on a parchment lined baking sheet.  It helps to let some of the excess batter drain back into the bowl before placing on the baking sheet.
5.    Roast the cauliflower in the 450º oven for 15 minutes.  Add five minutes if not using convection.  
6.    While the cauliflower is roasting whisk together the hot sauce, melted butter and honey.  
7.    When the cauliflower is done, remove it from the oven, and, using a pastry brush, brush the sauce over the individual florets.  
8.    Return the cauliflower to the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
9.    Remove from the oven, plate, and be prepared for your eyebrows to sweat.  
Featured in this video: G-fusion 5" Chopper

About the Writer & Videographer

John Tufts is an award-winning actor and author.  In addition to being paid to travel the world to wear tights and fight with swords, he has also written a book about the food of Shakespeare’s England called Fat Rascals: Dining at Shakespeare’s Table.  He lives in New York.





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