Now that the summer tomatoes have given way to ones that are more like breast implants (they look ripe and feel firm, but you wouldn’t want to bite into them), I’ve had to accept that it’s time to move on to other vegetables. Like cauliflower.
I know, it’s hard to get excited about cauliflower. There’s a reason why Yankee Candle doesn’t carry cooked cauliflower-scented votives. But something magical happens when you blanket that cauliflower in cheese sauce, top it with cheese and bread crumbs, and bake it until the top gets nice and brown. It transforms, from something you think you should be eating into a warm, rich, cheesy, gooey comfort food you can’t wait to dig into.
We ate this Cauliflower Gratin alongside a roast pork loin, but it would make a fine meatless main dish, especially for vegetarians with a serious addiction to mac and cheese. Hypothetically speaking, of course.
Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris”
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups hot milk
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided (can be replaced with cheddar)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, and add the cauliflower florets. Cook the cauliflower for 5 to 6 minutes, until it’s tender but still firm. Drain, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture, and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.
- Take the pan off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
- Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top, and then spread the remaining 2/3 of the sauce evenly on top.
- Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.