Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste Recipe

Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste

A few days after I published the post about my magic sauce, I realized I had all the ingredients to try and reproduce the dish that inspired it in the first place: Haan Palcu-Chang‘s* roasted cauliflower served cool with cilantro, toasted hazelnuts, and a dressing similar to said magic sauce, a small plate I had at the fabulous Paris raw bar Le Mary Celeste, which, if you’re curious, is named after a mysterious ghost ship.

It was so toe-curlingly good that I thought it merited a post all its own, to make certain nobody missed this game-changing way of serving and eating cauliflower. Back at Mary Celeste, I’d had to break the consensus rule to order it from the day’s menu because Maxence isn’t a cauliflower fan, yet even he had to admit it was stellar.

The moment when you think “Uh oh, I’ve left the cauliflower in for too long” is, in fact, the perfect moment to take it out.

One quick note about roasted cauliflower. After quite a number of recent batches — what can I say, I’ve been obsessed with roasted cauliflower — I have found the trick is to push it to the point where the edges of the florets start to turn quite dark (see photo below).

The moment when you think “Uh oh, I think I’ve left it in for too long” is, in fact, the perfect moment to take it out. That’s when the full range of flavors reveals itself, and when you get that satisfying mix of tender and crisp.

And while we’re tuned in to the cauliflower advice channel, I recommend that you judge your head of cauliflower by the vitality of its outer ribs and leaves: not only is this an unmistakeable sign of freshness, but you can also chop those ribs and leaves finely to use in a stir-fry, and get an additional portion of vegetables for the exact! same! price!

I wrote “Serves 2 to 4” in the recipe because it’s a fantastic picnic item and it would seem unreasonable for me to suggest you’ll eat the entire batch for lunch, but you may want to taste it before you decide whether or not you want to share.

* Read a little more about the chef in this recent profile.

Roasted Cauliflower

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Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 2 to 4.

Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste Recipe


  • one large head cauliflower
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (lemon juice may be substituted, but lime is better)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, a.k.a. nuoc mam or nam pla in its respective Vietnamese and Thai incarnations (look for it at Asian markets)
  • chili sauce, to taste
  • one good handful hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • one small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped


  1. First, prepare the cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Remove the outer ribs and leaves, and save them to stir-fry later. Slice large florets off the center stem of the cauliflower, and tear those into smaller florets with your fingers. Trim and discard the bottom of the stem that seems woody. Cut the rest of the stem into 1-cm (1/3-inch) slices then quarter these slices.
  2. Arrange the florets and stem slices on a greased rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Insert into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until tender and dark brown at the edges (see note in post above). Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a serving bowl. (This could be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)
  3. In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, lime juice, fish sauce, and chili sauce. Whisk to emulsify, then drizzle over the cauliflower. Add the hazelnuts and cilantro, and toss gently to combine. Adjust the seasoning and serve.
  • julieta

    This looks most delicious, but I was wondering, how do they roast the cauliflower at Mary Celeste if it is a raw bar?

    • It’s a raw bar in the sense of “oyster bar” that serves other raw fish/shellfish, but they also have an actual kitchen downstairs where they cook their other small plates.

  • Let’s imagine your family loves cauliflower and you think this dish sounds delicious…except for the fish sauce. Do you have any creative ideas for a vegetarian substitute?

    • Soy sauce is often suggested as a substitute for fish sauce, and I know there are recipes for “vegan fish sauce” out there. Either one is worth a shot!

    • Sagar

      I have made this twice now in two weekends. It was fantastic. Every one loved it. It gets better with age. The next day it tasted even better. I would dress it in advance of serving so the flavours can penetrate and put the hazelnuts in later. Being vegan, I used a vegan fish sauce. If you cannot get vegan fish sauce (from large Chinese Grocery stores) then you could use a mixture Soy Sauce and sugar or a little tamari.

      • I’m so pleased! And impressed that you had leftovers at all. ;)

        • Sagar

          I had a question though. Do you think there would be a problem if we dressed the cauliflower while it was still warm? Do you think that it might get too soggy? I was going to try it out this way and see if there was a difference.

          • I’ve tried it both ways, and both work — no sogginess — but I prefer to let it cool if I can because you get the crispy edges, which I love.

  • Can’t wait to try this. We are completely addicted to your Magic Sauce!

    • That’s great to hear. Do report back if you try it!

  • Wow, that cauliflower looks so tasty!!!!

  • i so agree about taking the cauli a few steps “too far” — it makes all the (wonderful) difference. i like to roast mine at a whopping 450°, and slide the tray onto the lowest possible rack, to up the caramelization and crunch (and sometimes speed things up — it can reach nirvana in 20-25).

    cauliflower and hazelnuts are wonderful together, and with this sauce? will so be trying this!

    thanks as always, clotilde!

  • I have been on a roasted cauliflower craze recently!! I think it’s because I’m taking advantage of the weather and not making soup after soup. And with this magic sauce, now I know what I’m doing tonight with the head of cauliflower in my fridge!

  • This looks amazing… it’s funny, I rarely ever think of eating cauliflower in summer, but now I’ll have to rethink that! I might try subbing hazelnut oil for some or all of the sesame oil.

    • You know, I normally don’t think of cauliflower as a summer vegetable either, but my greenmarket stall has been boasting “chou-fleur nouveau” and it has been delicious…

      • I made this today and let’s just say I won’t be so quick to walk past the cauliflower at the summer farmer’s market again!

        The other plus about saving and stir-frying the leaves – you get a nice first course while you’re waiting for the cauliflower to finish roasting/cooling down. :)

  • Huge lover of roasted cauliflower here… and when I happen to have letovers, I cook some pasta (I like orecchiette for that), and use the bits of roasted cauliflower as a “sauce”, just a little of the pasta cooking water, Parmigiano cheese, and nothing else

    Even my beloved husband, who is not too fond of cauliflower loves when I make it, knowing that leftovers will show up on a quick pasta dinner next day ;-)

    I must try your magic sauce, seems perfect!

    • That pasta dish sounds delicious! If only I could manage to have leftovers. :)

      • Let’s say that if I am going to be 100% honest, that comment could be

        “hypothetically speaking”, when I do have leftovers.. ;-)

  • I cant wait to try this. I love roasted cauliflower.

  • Sheila

    I adore roasted cauliflower. Every time I make it for a recipe, I eat half of it right out of the oven. Let’s see if I can save enough to try this recipe!

    • I know the feeling. That’s why I often make it just for myself. :)

  • Amanda

    I have learned a similar recipe from my Italian friends. There isn’t much of a sauce but its not really needed. You roast it with olive oil and toss some Italian seasoning with it as well. You also roast pine nuts. Toss it all together with either cilantro or parsley.. It is to die for. There is never enough for left overs. I’ll have to try your recipe now:)

    • Ah yes, an Italian variation, that sounds really good indeed!

  • Katie

    Off-topic, but Loving your newest book! After reading your Sour Cherry and Rose Compote recipe I sought and found a copy of the Daudet book to read the story about the brandied cherries. I am all the more inspired to try your compote and sponge cake recipes – thank you!!

    • You could not make me happier. Thanks Katie! ^^

  • Adele Miller

    Roasted cauliflower is the greatest, and it’s a wonderful companion for lots of different types of nuts and slightly salty accoutrements. One of our favorites is with toasted pine nuts and chopped black and green olives, sprinkled with lots of chopped parsley. Pistachios are heavenly also.

  • Rebecca

    We also named our daughter after the Mary Celeste (we call her Celly for short). We also love roasted cauliflower, so this is now on the menu for Wednesday. Thanks!

    • What a cool name for a little girl!

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  • Adrienne

    Made this dish tonight (had to substitute pumpkin seeds but found them delicious) and added snow pea shoots because the market had them. So good.

    • That sounds really lovely, Adrienne!

  • May I distract you with a giant farmer’s market cauliflower? We don’t get them in the summer, but the Christmas ones in Louisiana mean business.

    • Now that is, indeed, one very large cauliflower. My mouth is watering! :)

  • Eileen

    Thanks, Clotilde.
    This was certainly a way to get 2 people to eat a head of cauliflower!
    Only changes: being veggie, I did sub soy sauce for fish sauce.
    Also, couldn’t find pure hazelnuts so chopped up a mixture of nuts.
    Added toasted sesame seeds.

    • So glad you enjoyed this, Eileen!

  • Wendy Walker

    I love roasted cauliflower and actually ate it for lunch, here in Argentina, where it’s winter. The reason you might have so many cauliflowers in your Northern Hemisphere markets right now is because these winter veggies are perfectly ripe here on the other side of the world. Food for thought.

    • I’m not sure if you’re suggesting the cauliflowers here are imported, but the ones I get are definitely grown locally.

  • Ginger

    I just made this recipes last night, hands down the BEST recipe I have ever made. It’s morning here now and I am craving it already. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe.

    • Wow, thanks so much for your enthusiasm! I’m delighted you enjoyed it as much as I do.

  • Debbie

    Is the sesame oil “toasted” sesame oil?

    • The one I have is untoasted, but toasted would work very well too.

  • JJ

    This sounds wonderful. I’m not a big cilantro lover but I have two Thai basil plants positively exploding in the herb garden right now — I’ll try it with that substitution tomorrow.

    • Thai basil will work perfectly here! Will you report back on how you like it?

  • Malerie

    Beautiful! Is there another nut, in your opinion, that substitutes well for hazelnuts? I am allergic, which is hugely sad because I live in Oregon, where hazelnut trees grow like weeds. :)

    • I think peanuts would be great here, too, or almonds as well. Are those ok for you?

  • Louise

    Oh that sounds amazing. I’ve been making a roasted cauliflower and quinoa dish for a few years- I really like it for healthy work lunches- I actually made my latest batch yesterday. I had some blue cheese in the fridge this week, so made a roast garlic and blue cheese version.

    and now today I see your delicious version. I’ll be making it very soon.

    • The mix of quinoa and roasted cauliflower sounds like it would work really well!

  • maria

    I discovered roasted cauliflower a few years ago, most likely from an Ottolenghi recipe. I sometimes make mine with cumin seeds sprinkled on before roasting. Must try with nuts.

    • Cumin seeds must work really well. I’ve done ground cumin before, but I’ll try whole seeds next time!

  • Ginger

    I absolutely love this recipe. It is all the rave at my household. I have even adapted it to a soup recipe. Merci Beaucoup!!! One a side note, I love your blog. Thank you!!

    • So happy to hear that, Ginger. Can you tell us how you made the soup?

  • Owen Rasmussen

    so. you go back and forth between hot sauce and chili sauce. Are we talking about tabsco or frank’s red hot or more like Sriracha?

    • Hot sauce, chili sauce and pepper sauce are just generic terms for any spicy sauce or condiment made from chili peppers and other ingredients.

      I don’t specify which because it doesn’t matter: you can just use whichever one you like and have on hand. The purpose is simply to add heat.

      I personally have Tabasco on hand most often, and although I love sriracha, I have stopped buying it because of the preservatives and stabilizers. I do plan to make my own sometime though!

  • Stella_L

    wow. I just have to say wow. we just had lunch and I have to come and thank you immediately because this was incredible! :) I had some leftover dill sauce and wanted to use it. I kinda recalled that it could go with white (poultry) meat so I bought turkey breast steaks and I thought, why not pair it with roasted cauliflower recipe from Clotilde…my husband was like – roasted cauliflower? but I said, let’s trust Clotilde ;) I made it without the sauce but with just a dash of ground cumin (it’s our favourite condiment at the moment) cause I had dill sauce and we ate it warm…the best lunch in a looong time! :)) we are just astounded with this recipe and I’ll be definitely making it in the future..sorry for the long comment but we are :))) thanks!

    • That is so lovely to hear, Stella, thank you for reporting back! Would you share your dill sauce recipe?

      • Stella_L

        it’s just a roux based sauce, my grandmother’s recipe..butter and flour, then you put finely chopped dill just until you can smell it..then you pour milk and water (I guess you could go either way, my grandma says 2 parts milk 1 part water) and cook until you get the desired thickness..when it’s cooked, you mix in vinegar to your taste, we like ours a bit stronger, and season with salt..we eat it with fish but it goes really well with turkey too :) and I have to say, we could not believe that cauliflower could have such a full and rich no cauliflower before :) such a simple idea and method of preparation but something extraordinary! thanks so much for sharing! :)

        • Thanks for sharing the recipe, Stella, I’ll give it a try! My vegetable guy often brings dill and sometimes I run out of ideas of what to do with it.

          • Stella_L

            I hope you like it! I grew up eating that and tomato sauce, a lot, just dunk bread or with cooked chicken meat and veggies when grandma made soup..memories :) my dill sauce didn’t turn out quite as grandmas but it was still good..this was the first time I made it and after we talked she had to call me back to make sure I don’t leave the dill too long so I don’t burn it and to put vinegar because it wouldn’t be dill sauce without the vinegar :) that’s why I love cooking, food really brings people together :)

          • Such a sweet story — thank you for sharing, Stella.

  • I grew up eating that and tomato sauce, a lot, just dunk bread or with cooked chicken meat and veggies….

  • This is one of my fav dishes from childhood, clotilde

    • What a wonderful childhood that must have been! ^^ Was it your mother who made it, or another parent/caregiver?

  • Julie Czosek

    WOW! I just made this. I am a lover of all vegetables however cauliflower never tasted this good! The roasting made the dish. The “magic sauce” assisted. I made one small substitution….oyster sauce for fish sauce. I was out and could not find it at my local store. I had planned on serving this as a side for dinner…..I’m thinking maybe I will just keep this for myself. Thanks, Clotilde!

  • I cant wait to try this. I love roasted cauliflower. Any changes as it seems to be old post

    • The good thing about recipes is that they’re evergreen! ^^ And I still make this recipe exactly as written.

  • Ammi rey
  • Joan DiLeonardi

    I have never found anyone who didn’t love this. I have been roasting cauliflower for several years now, and the sauce is a version of one we used with everything, including congee in Thailand. The people we were with called it “piki nu” . The spelling is my attempt at phonetics. Anyway, thanks for the post.

    • Thank you Joan, love hearing about this! Did you live in Thailand?

      • Joan DiLeonardi

        No, I was just there for a few weeks as an Earthwatch volunteer and a tourist. We had a few cooking lessons.

        • It must have been a life-changing experience! What were the highlights for you?

          • Joan DiLeonardi

            It was my first trip to Asia and the first time I couldn’t read the street signs when I spent a few days in Bangkok. I found the crowding and traffic overwhelming. I got in very late at night and went out of my small hotel the next morning to get street food for breakfast and went right back in to the coffee shop after many people rushed towards me offering taxis, tours and food. I regrouped after breakfast and went out and walked around a park across from the hotel where people were very friendly, smiling and saying hello. I later learned that obvious tourists like me had been befriended, offered lemonade which was drugged, then robbed. I had no such experiences.
            Our Earthwatch trip, which met in Chiang Mai, was looking at the indigenous architecture of the hill tribes and I have many wonderful memories of different remote villages and interesting people as well as our beautiful hotel in Chiang Mai which was a series of thatched roof buildings attached to a walkway on a lagoon with wonderful stone floored waterfall showers. That was where we had the cooking lessons.

          • I loved reading all this, Joan, thanks so much for sharing. I’ve “only” been to Japan but there’s so much more I want to explore in Asia! When my boys are a tiny bit older we’d love to take them.

  • HaHaHa! Finally I found a cauliflower dish that looks good, and I think it tastes great. I’ll ask my wife to prepare one such dish for me.

  • Caulifloweris my favourite foods and as far as I know not many people really enjoy this. Thank you for sharing this idea

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  • Zoë Wright

    Hello, I love the idea of this recipe, and made it last night only to find it way too salty. Is two tablespoons of fish sauce really the accurate proportion? Or did I just use the wrong type of fish sauce? I used a product called Premium Fish Sauce made by Thai Kitchen, made of anchovies, sea salt, and water. Any clarification or tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hm. Sorry this was your experience, Zoë. It is the amount I use myself, but I don’t know if the saltiness of fish sauces varies widely or not. The only thing I can recommend in future is to start with half the amount, and taste as you go.

  • This recipe seems to be great. I will try to prepare for my children tomorrow.

  • Do you have the recipe for the spiced cucumbers? They look amazing and my garden is full of cukes! I need new ways to serve them.

  • I love this recipe. I can’t wait to prepare it for my husband!

  • Yes, this Roasted Cauliflower recipe is really spicy, I try and whole family likes it, thanks.

  • Great recipe, thanks for sharing. I cant wait to prepare and taste it.

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  • wow, i love to try this at home, loving it

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