Cauliflower gratin is a quick and easy crowd-pleasing dish. It’s kind of like macaroni and cheese with cauliflower in place of the pasta; if I had picky kids to cook for, you better believe this would be something I would make often. It’s also a great option for gluten-free friends: just leave the flour out of the cheese sauce, replacing it with cornstarch if you want. Cauliflower lovers that we are, I served it as the main dish for dinner with some sauteed greens and pickled asparagus alongside; we were plenty full. In smaller portions, cauliflower gratin is delicious as a side dish for chicken or barbecue. For variety, try replacing some or all of the cauliflower with broccoli, asparagus or peas. It is a rich, decadent treat and worth making at least once. Maybe tonight?
Cauliflower Gratin (adapted from Ina Garten)
- 1 head of cauliflower (3-4 lbs.), rinsed and broken into bite-sized florets & pieces
- 2 c. whole milk
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 3 T. flour
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 c. grated sharp white cheddar cheese
In 5-6 c. of boiling water with 1 tsp. salt added, cook the cauliflower for 5 mins. and then drain thoroughly. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium-low heat; don’t allow it to boil. While the milk is heating, in another small saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until you have a smooth paste; cook for 1-2 mins. to brown and thicken slightly and cook off the raw flour taste. Whisking constantly, slowly stream in the warmed milk, stopping as needed to incorporate the liquid evenly. When combined, add the black pepper and cook the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally but watching constantly, until it is thickened, almost like gravy. This takes about 5-8 mins., depending on your pan, heat, etc. Add the parmesan cheese and half of the cheddar cheese and stir to melt the cheeses. Pour about 1/2 c. (just estimate) of your cheese sauce into a 8″ x 11″ or equivalent baking dish and add your cauliflower; top with the rest of the cheese sauce and stir just a bit to cover all of the vegetables evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar cheese over the top and bake for 25 mins.; serve hot.