By Rachel Burkons, @smokesipsavor
When I partnered with Lagunitas and ABX to develop a few food pairings to match with their delicious Hi-Fi Hops Reverb, my brain immediately went in two directions: Something lemony and cheesy (see my Lemon Spinach Artichoke Dip here) and something sweet, sticky, and crunchy. These flavors were a natural fit because they both demonstrate the pairing power of working with either similar or dissimilar flavors.
That’s where these delicious cauliflower bites come in! Because the sticky sesame cauliflower is slightly sweet, the clear, hoppy flavor of the Hi-Fi Hops Reverb cuts through those sweet notes, keeping the dish from being too cloying and making this a really balanced pairing through contrast. Hi-Fi Hops Reverb also has a really nice, vibrant carbonation, which I personally find mitigates sweetness on the palate, and in general, this is just an easy-eating and -drinking pair!
Cauliflower is a great meat alternative in a lot of classic “bar foods,” so I decided to recreate some sticky sesame chicken wings with this vegan, gluten-free, baked-not-fried option! This sauce is so delicious and easy to make, and the cauliflower is light and crispy. So it definitely checks all of the boxes for sweet, crunchy, and sticky!
I served these as bites fit for a football watch party, with bamboo picks in each floret for easy pickup and nibbling, but you could easily turn this into a main-course with some rice and veggies on the side. I’d keep the Hi-Fi Hops Reverb though, no matter which way you choose to go!
Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
For the Sauce: This is enough sauce for a large cauliflower. If you’re working with a smaller cauliflower, you may half the quantities, but it’s always nice to have some extra of this yummy sauce on hand!
Over medium heat, add sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Sautee for one to two minutes, then add soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar. Bring to a boil. Mix cornstarch and water into a slurry, and add to the saucepan, stir, bring to a boil to thicken, and remove from heat. Set aside, or refrigerate overnight.
For the Cauliflower: This rice flour batter is nice and light, giving these cauliflower bites the perfect crunchy contrast to the soft inside!
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut cauliflower into florets, and cut florets lengthwise into half, or even quarters if florets are large. In a large bowl, mix dry batter ingredients. Add wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add cauliflower into the bowl in batches, coating each floret thoroughly. The batter will thicken, so do not make it until you are ready to roll!
Place cauliflower on a parchment-lined baking sheet, flat/sliced side-down. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.
Brush each bite liberally with sticky sauce – I like to get all sides! – and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and top with sesame seeds and sliced green onion. Serve as bites/appetizers with bamboo skewers.