You may have seen a new item creeping onto menus, with a name that implies a favorite vegetable has sprouted wings. The cauliflower “wing” has taken a spot next to the hummus plate and the avocado sandwich as a vegetable option that pleases everyone.
Of course, cauliflower has no wings, but when you cut it in dippable chunks, add batter and douse it with a flavorful sauce, it does a pretty good job of delivering a traditional winglike experience. These baked Maple-Barbecue Cauliflower “Wings” bring that trendy appetizer to your home.
Part of the appeal of both “real” chicken wings and cauliflower “wings” is that they are deep-fried, then generally served with a liberal coating of butter or other spicy sauce. A blue cheese dip or ranch dressing serves as the final dip. They are greasy bar food at its finest. But for my wings, I’m ditching the deep fryer for a hot oven.
What makes them “wings” is both the shape of the florets and the sauce and seasoning. I like to cut them into a big floret, including a generous portion of stem, so they are easy to pick up with your fingers and dip in sauce. I used chickpea flour, which is in the gluten-free or natural foods section at most grocery stores or co-ops, and Bob’s Red Mill is a common brand. The chickpea flour gives the coating a nutty, almost eggy taste.
To amp up the crispiness, I roll the “wings” in panko breadcrumbs. The “wings” can easily be gluten-free, if you need them to, by subbing crushed gluten-free Rice-Chex-type cereal. I prefer it to the commercially available GF breadcrumbs in coatings like this because it is already crunchy.
Once they bake, the “wings” are tender inside and crisp outside, so I prefer to drizzle a bit of hot, sweet sauce on them, but if you want to coat them, do it at the last moment. Start out with a lesser amount of hot sauce if you are uncertain about the heat.
Then let your cauliflower fly.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.