Welcome to another round of Fandom Foodies! I know, it’s been a good long while since I did a recipe roundup — #MarioMonth with Lvl.1 Chef back in April, maybe? Every month my food blogger friends host a recipe round up centered around a theme. Last month Carrie from Witchy Kitchen hosted #WonkaMonth for all noms from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This month Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen asks to eat our way through the works of Jane Austen with #JaneAustenBites. Since I can never do things conventionally, I made a recipe inspired by Jane Austen AND Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Click here to skip to the recipe for Pemberly Roast Cauliflower with Empress Sauce!
Pride and Prejudice…and Zombies
I admit I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. As an English major, I feel it is my sacred duty to comment on whether I love or hate Jane Austen. I count myself in the love camp.
Pride and Prejudice is a snarky portrayal of a society that values agreeableness, social standing, and money over any other quality. These qualities mean financial security and power. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies portrays a society that values agreeableness, social standing, and the ability to kill as many the dreadfully-not-completely-departed as possible. If you replace the word finance with zombie two sentences ago, you pretty much have the same book.
I love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ fun details such as status based on different styles of martial arts training, the blatant yet goofy orientalism taken to the extreme, and heads of cauliflower as the perfect bait for zombies. My main beef (food blogger pun not intended) with this adaptation is that Grahame-Smith and illustrator Phillip Smiley seem confused as to when Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice — or as to when she was even alive for that matter. The book was written in 1796 and published in 1813 (the Georgian to Regency period). The terms and illustrations in the adaptation are more fitting to the 1880-90’s in the late Victorian era.
I understand anachronisms for the sake of fun, but I don’t think this was intentional unless they were implying a zombie Jane Austen wrote this book in an alternate universe at least seven decades after her death… actually, I like that idea. Can I just pretend that was Grahame-Smith’s intent?
My grudges aside, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fun read, and I wanted to create a recipe that especially fit its aesthetics.
Dining with Dreadfuls
As I said earlier, the zombies (referred to as “dreadfuls” in the book) constantly confuse cauliflower for tasty, tasty brains. With this in mind, I sought to find recipes for cauliflower from the Regency era that Lizzie and Darcy might serve to a dear infected friend before she joins the ranks of walking dead.
What I found was a recipe for Chouxfluer a la Reine (Cauliflower with Queen’s Sauce) in The Professed Cook by B.Clermont (10th reprint, 1812). It describes the dish as boiled cauliflower served in a ham and shallot based cream sauce. It also mentions a variation where you could dip it in a wine batter and fry it instead of boiling it.
Since I wanted to serve up a whole cranium of this cruciferous vegetable, I opted for the battering and roasting route. Also to make sure those zombies keep munching on this brain substitute, I stuffed all the nooks and crannies with ham and shallots from the sauce. Human flesh supposed to taste like pork, right? Please don’t answer that. I don’t want to know how you know.
To highlight the Asian aesthetic in the adaptation, I took both Elizabeth and Darcy’s training into account. As a nod to Elizabeth’s kung fu training in China, I used smokey lapsang souchong tea and five-spice powder. In reference to Darcy’s education in Japan, I made a sesame oil and sake batter to encase all that delicious, faux-cerebral goodness in a sweet and savory crust.
Whether you decide to serve this as a side dish or the main course, it’s bound to delight even the most dreadful among your dinner party. Need some meal accompaniment ideas? Check out the #JaneAustenBites recipe link up over at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen!
Pemberley Roast Cauliflower with Empress Sauce
Equipment: Oven, stovetop, baking sheet, aluminum foil, cooking spray,
- 1 Whole head of cauliflower
- 1 cup finely diced ham
- 1 1/2 cup strongly brewed lapsang souchong tea
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 2 or 3 drops red food coloring
- kosher salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Trim the leaves and core of the cauliflower. Remove as much as the large stem as possible while maintaining the structural integrity. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with a layer of cooking spray.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, then add shallot and garlic to sweat about 1-2 minutes. Then add the ham and continue to cook, occasionally stirring, for another 5 minutes. Bring the heat up to medium.
- Crumble the bouillon cube into the tea. Pour it, the parsley, and the cream into the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Whisk together the ingredients for the batter in a mixing bowl while the sauce simmers. Add kosher salt to taste slightly saltier than you would like it to be. Some of it will cook off while roasting.
- When time is up, strain the sauce into a separate container and cover to keep warm. Reserve the pork and shallot mix.
- Pack the pork and shallots into the underside of the cauliflower. Slather the whole thing in batter, even the underside.
- Form a large ball of tinfoil and spray it with cooking spray. Place it in the cavity and then place the cauliflower on the baking sheet, foil-ball side down.
- Bake the head 35-50 minutes or until it forms a dry, browned crust. Remove from the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
- Serve with sauce and more fresh chopped parsley.