Diner en Blanc – dinner in white – is an enchanting idea. Guests, dressed in their finest whites, learn last-minute the unlikely location of their meal – say, outside Lincoln Center. Exhibiting, in the words of the international organization, “decorum, elegance, and etiquette,” they stage a posh picnic.
I’m all for unlikely, for elegance, for picnic, though in the 30 years since a guy named Francois Pasquier suggested his friends get together in a park, in white, I’ve never attended the event. The secret society meets in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and other spots I frequent infrequently. Like, never.
In fact, the whole project, while very public – who can miss 10,000 Parisians, in white, dining under the Eiffel Tower – it’s also very private. You have to be invited.
Instead, I pull together my own white night. I prepare an all-white meal – steamed haddock, stewed cannellini beans, slivered endive, roasted cauliflower warmed with garlic and anchovy. I cue up the remastered “White Album.” Dressed in an elegantly distressed white T-shirt, I reveal the location – kitchen table – and enjoy Diner en Blanc, home-style.
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Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
2 firm heads cauliflower
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 anchovy fillets
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, optional
Roast: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim away cauliflower cores; cut the heads into florets. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and browned in many spots, tossing once or twice, 25 to 30 minutes.
Mash: Meanwhile, use a mortar and pestle to mash garlic and salt to a paste. Drop in pepper and anchovies and mash. Work in 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Toss: When cauliflower is done, scrape it into a serving bowl. Toss with anchovy sauce. Taste and add lemon juice or olive oil if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and a little cheese, if you like.