Sometimes things just don’t work out, and sometimes thing are actually so bad it’s interesting. Having recently acquired a pressure cooker I’ve obviously tried out the Modernist cuisine caramelized carrot soup a couple of times, with great results. The principles are explained pretty clearly in the recipe. Pressure cooking increases the temperature enough, and bicarbonate of soda raises the pH enough to increase the rate of the Maillard reactions to such an extent that you can produce a deep, complex caramelized carrot soup in 20 minutes. So considering what other vegetables are good roasted and caramelized, I thought of cauliflower, which goes a major transformation from slightly bland and insipid to rich and delicious after some time in a hot oven.
After following the steps to the carrot soup recipe, just with a slightly higher proportion of vegetable than usual (although that has previously worked out fine with carrots) I eagerly waited for the 20 minutes to be up so I could see what mysterious thing had happened in the pressure cooker. It smelt promising, the steam from my venting cooker increasingly resembled the aroma of roast cauliflower. I released the pressure, opened the lid and it look wonderfully browned, and very collapsed, I took a spoonful expecting, basically to taste roast cauliflower. But it was foul, I thought maybe it would improve blended with the stock, probably just too concentrated. I made a batch of light stock simmering the cauliflower leaves and some aromatics and blended it with the cauliflower until soupish. Trying it again, with a little more apprehension, it was still amazingly repulsive. No seasoning or cream helped, it was if all the slightly odorous pungent parts of overcooked cauliflower had been amplified a thousand fold, so not good then!
I couldn’t find much about the chemistry of cooking cauliflower online, but it’s interesting that roasting in a hot oven for longer and the pressure cooking above produce (although with some similar aromas and colours) two end products totally at the opposite ends of palatable. So hopeful ideas don’t always work out, perhaps varying time, pH, or process you could make it a success, but I’ve wasted a whole head of cauliflower already.