Nashville hot chicken is one of America’s iconic regional dishes. While the notion of transforming it into cauliflower is roughly the size and shape of a chicken—perfect for smoking-roasting—and the scorching paste of cayenne and garlic goes uncannily well with its earthy funk. Warning: There is a serious amount of cayenne pepper in this recipe. The recipe gives you a range, but even at the lower end, it’s hot. Dial it up or down to suit your taste.
Nashville Hot Cauliflower
One of Steven Raichlen’s predictions for 2021 was veggies 24/7. He was spot-on. I feel the trend will continue into 2022 and beyond. Everyday, people are changing their eating habits and consuming more veggies for a healthier diet. I think grilling your veggies adds a level of flavor you just can’t get by boiling or steaming.
The first time I tried Steven’s Hot Nashville Cauliflower was at the beginning of 2020 while I was testing recipes for his latest inspiring book, How to Grill Vegetables. My initial response when tasting the cauliflower was that it was spicy, but I couldn’t stop eating it.
Fast forward to 2022. My wife and I hosted friends—my chance to make this spicy dish. (When I’m hosting an event, I cook everything outside on one of my five grills and smokers and always incorporate veggies.)
Here’s how I prepared the cauliflower. I made a few modifications to dial down the heat for my wife and our friends. Go to Barbecuebible.com or check out Steven’s book “How to Grill Vegetables” for the full Nashville Hot Cauliflower recipe.
I made the marinade the day before. It includes buttermilk, cayenne, granulated garlic, granulated onion, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and vegetable oil. The marinade is optional, but I don’t recommend skipping this step. I then removed all the green leaves from the cauliflower and pricked holes in it with a skewer. Then, I placed the cauliflower and the marinade in an extra-large resealable bag and refrigerated it overnight, turning it every few hours to distribute the marinade.
The following day, I set up my Big Green Egg XL (BGE) for smoke-roasting, a form of indirect grilling, and heated the BGE to 400 degrees. I also added two wood chunks to create smoke. A gas or charcoal grill set-up for indirect grills will work for this recipe. Next time I’ll try this recipe on my rotisserie.
Next, I drained the marinade off the cauliflower and placed it in a baking dish to transport it to the grill. As it cooked, I made a modified version of the basting sauce. Though I enjoyed the spicy kick from Steven’s recipe, but I knew the heat might blow away my wife and our guests. You can adjust the amount of cayenne to suit your taste.
The basting sauce consists of cayenne pepper, brown sugar, granulated garlic and onion, sea salt, black pepper, celery salt, vegetable oil, and unsalted butter. To tame the heat, I used less cayenne and increased the amount of brown sugar. I also added a mild buffalo sauce to add some flavor and to increase the amount of liquid in the marinade. I basted the cauliflower every 15 minutes until it was browned and tender. The total cooking time was 55 minutes.
I then transferred the cauliflower to a cutting board and cut it into florets. The cauliflower also looks cool if you cut it into “steaks” or slices. I arranged it on a serving platter, then poured the remaining basting sauce over the cauliflower.
I served the cauliflower with Steven’s Maytag blue cheese sauce. The Nashville Hot Cauliflower did not disappoint. The cauliflower was browned, and slightly crispy on the outside. The florets were tender and had some bite. I enjoyed watching my guests responses to the heat. One of our friends stopped eating and grabbed a chocolate chip cookie to cool his mouth off. Another friend couldn’t stop eating the cauliflower and asked for the recipe. He wants to put the marinade on his next batch of chicken wings; he loves spicy food.
Veggies do not have to be boring. Spice up your veggie repertoire with Steven’s Nashville Hot Cauliflower.