January 15, 2005
Cauliflower au gratin

cauliflower.jpgIt's kind of a dead season at the moment if you are trying to keep to locally produced seasonal vegetables. As a result, when I saw a nice head of cauliflower yesterday at the store I decided to bring it home and see what I could make of it. It's not my favorite vegetable, but one of my resolutions for 2005 was to stop buying exotic and out of season produce. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized that to some people there is no such thing as "a nice head of cauliflower". More imortantly, I hadn't realized this group of people includes my beloved spouse. It looks like I'm going to be eating a lot of cauliflower in the next few days. It's me or my worms, anyway. (Let me hasten to clarify that the worms in question are in a wormery on my balcony, not myself!)

The weather here in Paris has recently turned colder, so I opted to use half of the head in an old classic: cauliflower au gratin. The bottom drawer of our fridge conveniently contained a couple of cheese ends needing to be used up, and the heat would be welcome in our cold flat. Also, the mix of cabbage or cauliflower flavors with sharp cheese is a marriage made in heaven. I toyed for a bit with the idea of using blue cheese, but since I haven't had cauliflower in a long time opted for the more classic combination of cheddar cheese, with a bit of French comté.

Oddly enough, none of my many cookbooks contained an acceptable recipe for the cauliflower. The vegetarian cookbooks all suggested curries, which are interesting in their own way but I prefer them as part of an Indian-themed dinner. The Fannie Farmer (my old standard) had a recipe for creamed cauliflower that looked bland and cauliflower gratin that looked dry.

So I combined the two Fannie Farmer recipes to make something more satisfying, creamy and flavorfull.

Cauliflower au gratin

1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut in slices one inch (1.25 cm) thick
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup comté, grated
1/2 a nutmeg, grated
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs bread crumbs

cooked cauliflower.jpgMelt the butter until frothy in a small sauce pan. Add the flour and stir until it turns nut brown. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Gradually add the cheeses, then the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Arrange the slices of cauliflower in a small baking pan. Drizzle some of the cheese mixture over each layer as you go, making sure you reserve enough to completely cover the last layer. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and bake in a hot oven (200C/375F) for 45 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the top has browned nicely.

Serve as a side dish, especially with a nice steak au poivre and maybe a salad.

Oh, and before you purchase the cauliflower, you might want to question your nearest and dearest about their taste for the vegetable: it appears there is no middle ground on this one, you either like it or you really, really hate it!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at January 15, 2005 12:00 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

What's the comté like? What cheese comes closest for those of us who have to substitute?

Posted by barrett on January 15, 2005 at 7:15 PM

I made this the night before last - but with aged gouda and toasted hazelnuts instead of bread crumbs, no flour, and cream. It was supposed to be for 4, but the two 16 year olds had dates, so Larry and I ate 2 pounds of gratin-ed cauliflower. Yum!

Posted by dksbook on January 15, 2005 at 7:23 PM

Comté is a nutty flavored hard chees, so you could double the amount of cheddar or put in a young gruyere or (as commented) an aged Gouda. If you have access to other French cheeses, a tomme would also work well. I still think a blue cheese might also be interesting, in moderation.

One thing I forgot to mention: you could also opt to leave off the nutmeg and include a teaspoon of mustard instead. In that case, though, I would probably avoid substituting a blue cheese!

Posted by Meg in Paris on January 15, 2005 at 8:29 PM

This I need to try, I adore cauliflowers, but I never tried to make at home somithing like this.

Posted by Sandra on January 16, 2005 at 12:35 AM

I wasn't a big fan of cauliflower until I roasted it. Slice the florets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. When it's done, sprinkle a nice vinegar on top. Maybe I should post this recipe.

Posted by Todd in New Orleans on January 16, 2005 at 12:01 PM

Todd, that does sound lovely - what kind of vinegar do you use? (Yes, do post!!)

dksbook, your combination sounds even better than mine - toasted hazelnuts make a much more interesting crust!

Posted by Meg in Paris on January 16, 2005 at 1:44 PM

That looks like cheesy goodness. I must say that large amounts of cheddar sauce were the only way I would eat cauliflower as a young'un, but both this and the roasted, with nuts sound good.

Re the curried cauliflower, you might wish to try it as a soup (for your lunch) so you don't have the issue of putting a whole Indian meal together.

Posted by Charlotte on January 16, 2005 at 3:28 PM

Try steaming the califlower and then sprinkling with a blue cheese, the heat melts the cheese into gooey chunks. I admit, I love califlower, anyway, any how.

Posted by Ginger on January 16, 2005 at 4:33 PM

Wow! Who would have thought that such a commonly despised vegetable could trigger so many creative ideas? Soup sounds like a good compromise and I'm glad to have confirmation that blue cheese works well too. Thanks to you all!

Posted by Meg in Paris on January 17, 2005 at 7:51 AM

Hi, I have a simple and wonderful (even my girlies love it) recipe for cauliflower. Steam till desired doneness (is that a word?). During steaming, put a little really good olive oil in saute pan, heat, add thin slices of fresh garlic. Carmelize garlic, turn off heat when garlic is a nice light brownish color. When caulifower is finished, combine garlic, olive oil and cauliflower, add a tablespoon or two of cream "leger", salt and pepper.
How is baby?

Posted by Alisa on January 17, 2005 at 2:48 PM

Wow, Alisa, that sounds good! How can you go wrong with garlic? I'll keep the recipe in mind when Kieran gets older (though I doubt it'll convince his dad)!

Baby is doing just great, by the way!

Posted by Meg in Paris on January 17, 2005 at 4:53 PM

Wow! Who would have thought that such a commonly despised vegetable could trigger so many creative ideas? Soup sounds like a good compromise and I'm glad to have confirmation that blue cheese works well too. Thanks to you all!

Posted by thomas sabo on October 10, 2011 at 3:17 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please be sure you read and agree with our ADVERTISING POLICY before posting.