What, is it November already? Ok, I know it's August, but there are some times when you want a nice hearty dish for dinner that might more rightly be served at Thanksgiving.
I had a hankering (that's right, I said "hankering") for a cauliflower gratin. I'm not a huge fan of raw caulifower as seen on crudite trays, but I love the stuff when it's been softened up and covered in cheese.
The recipe is pretty much my own. I got the concepts from a number of online recipes (pre-cook the veg, make a roux, add milk, add cheese on top and bake), but the specifics were improvised.
The classic cheese for this dish (at least in Middle America in the 1970's) would be Velveeta or cheddar. I used a taleggio that works much better as a complement to the flavor of the cauliflower. Cheddar or (shudder) Velveeta would merely cover the flavor of the caulifower, which I find very pleasant unless its been overcooked. That said, the taleggio made the dish quite a bit less economical than it would have been, but greatly improved the flavor.
My wife thinks this dish needs to be herbed up a bit. I won't disagree, but I liked it the way it was. Adding marjoram or tarragon to the dish wouldn't hurt it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
1 head cauliflower
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 cup shredded or ground Parmesan
6-8 oz. taleggio cheese cut into 1/8" slices
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt, pepper, optional green herbs to taste
Lightly butter a casserole dish or baking dish with a lid. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Put a big pot of salted water on to boil.
Cut the core out of your cauliflower and discard the green portions. Cut the head into florets and cut the core of the cauliflower into 2" pieces. When your water is boiling, add the florets to it and boil for 8 minutes until the cauliflower is just starting to get tender. Don't overboil the cauliflower because it will spoil the aroma and flavor.
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour and stir well until the butter absorbs the raw flour. Add the milk and stir for at least five minutes as the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg and Parmesan and stir until the cheese is absorbed into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs now if you like.
Take a spoon and very lightly spread just enough sauce onto the bottom of the casserole to cover it. Add the cauliflower and pour the rest of the sauce over the vegetable. Lay the slices of taleggio on top of the mix.
Place the dish in the oven and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove the lid, raise the temperature to 475 and bake for 3-5 more minutes until the top is just starting to take on color.
Remove the dish from the oven and let sit for seven to ten minutes before serving. The sauce will thicken up nicely in that time. Be careful, even after sitting seven minutes, the cauliflower and sauce will be hot.
Serve with something green or as a side.