A light coating of breadcrumbs makes this Spanish cauliflower tapas crispy without weighing it down. Also, since it can be fried a few hours ahead and then crisped up again in the oven, it makes a a great, low-stress appetizer for your next get-together!
The inspiration to make fried Spanish cauliflower came from an excellent tapas dinner I had last summer at a cute restaurant when my husband and I had a date night. I loved their light coating on the cauliflower and how they got it all crispy.
The restaurant is on the other side of the state, so visiting frequently is out of the question, but I wanted that cauliflower again. And again. Since I had no idea how exactly they made it, I started experimenting until I came up with a version that, though different from theirs, gave me the same happy feeling.
Yes, I tested the whole make ahead advice. I hadn’t made it ahead in the past, but it is a lot easier to take my pictures during the day when no one is hovering* waiting for dinner! So, I made it mid-day and served it with dinner that evening. A few minutes in a 400F oven, and it was like I had just made it. Score!
I love appetizers I can make ahead so that all that is left is to plate things up and enjoy my evening.
Isn’t that the best thing?
It totally is. After all, why have friends over if you don’t get to spend any time with them? And it also makes this Spanish cauliflower great to bring to a party. So long as you can get a few minutes in the oven when you arrive, they will be as yummy as they were when you made them.
*Yes, they do hover! Trying to take beautiful pictures with a husband and daughter pacing around behind me is completely fun! In a way that’s not. But this means I get to test how well recipes reheat since I take many photos earlier in the day and, when I have to take the photos in the evening, I often put them to work holding bounce cards and lifting up forks. So it all works out!
I would also like to say that I think Spanish cauliflower is a great dish for those nights when you want ‘appetizers for dinner.’ Y’all do that, right? It’s like breakfast for dinner, but with savory nibbles and it’s a great way to make all those fun appetizers more often!
Starting from the cauliflower, I’d make Quick and Easy Romesco Sauce (definitely – it’ll go with everything), and then, to continue the Spanish theme of the evening, some oven roasted Patatas Bravas. Yum!
And I’d round it out with either some garlicky sauteed shrimp, or – since I have the oil all hot – some shrimp and chickpea fritters. (Or to make it a fully vegetarian night, I’d skip the shrimp and make chickpea fritters. Tasty either way.) Isn’t this what everyone does on a Saturday night for fun? I know. I’m a cooking nerd. 🙂
Now I’m hungry! I might have to make this menu very soon. I’ll call it ‘recipe testing for the blog.
If you try my recipe for Cauliflower Tapas, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Pan Fried Spanish Cauliflower Tapas
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups dried bread crumbs
- 1 tsp paprika
- kosher salt
- Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Steam cauliflower for 5 minutes; then immediately plunge the cauliflower into cold water. Drain well and then blot with a cloth until they are dry as possible.
- Fill a large skillet 1/2 inch deep with vegetable oil. With the burner on medium, heat the oil to 350F. Turn the burner down to low to maintain the temperature.
- While the oil is heating (it will take several minutes), take out two shallow bowls or pie plates. Break the eggs into one bowl and give them a quick mix. Pour the bread crumbs and paprika into the other and give it a stir.
- To coat the cauliflower florets, dip them into the egg, allowing most of the egg to drip off - you don't want much egg on the cauliflower. Then roll them in the bread crumbs. Don't worry if the cauliflower is only partially covered. What you are looking for is a thin coating over much of the cauliflower.
- In batches (3 or 4 depending on the amount of cauliflower), add the florets to the hot oil and fry them, turning them every so often, until they are golden brown and crisp, 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, take the florets out of the oil and put them on plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.
- Serve while still warm from the oil or make them ahead and then reheat in a 400F oven until hot and crispy, about 5 minutes.
- Prepping the Cauliflower: The reason to dry the cauliflower so carefully is that the coating sticks much better to a dry surface.
- Sauce for the Tapas: Fried cauliflower is great served with Romesco Sauce or with a garlicky aioli.