Cauliflower Gratin

by angelika on December 7, 2011

I went to a restaurant earlier this fall and ordered a cauliflower gratin. It was to.die.for. Now, I am already a big fan of cauliflower. As a child it was my favorite vegetable. As an adult I like all vegetables, (some a bit more than others) yet cauliflower remains a comfort food favorite. The thing that made that gratin really special was smoked cheese. It was a new experience for me. I had not really looked at smoked mozzarella or cheddar, even though the cheese department and I are very friendly. The smoked cheese really added a depth to the sauce that I fell head over heals for. I wish I had known about it when I was pregnant and craving bacon- as it really has a flavor that would have quenched that craving. (no I never ate bacon, it was the smell I liked more than the idea of eating meat) I used this sauce on my recent broccoli cheddar pot pie, and then again on this gratin. My other new love, fume de sel, finished this dish off in an absolute perfect way. It is oak aged fleur de sel, and it complements any grilled or smoky dish imaginable. The only other thing you need for food bliss perfection? A nice glass of California Zin. 

Cauliflower Gratin 
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, mined
1 large head of cauliflower, cored and diced in 1″ cubes

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
8 ounces sharp cheddar
6 ounces smoked cheddar
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup parsley, minced
a pinch of salt and pepper 

Prepare the cheese sauce according to the directions found here. If you made the broccoli cheddar pot pie, this is what to do with the leftover sauce. The recipe made enough for me to prepare both recipes. If you just make the gratin, you will have some sauce left. This is not a bad thing. My kids liked it as a dip, and over a baked potato. I mean, it’s creamy cheese sauce. You could even just go ahead and eat it with a spoon. 

Preheat the oven to 400º.
In a saucepan heat the butter on medium low. Caramelize/ brown the onion. I wanted to caramelize, but lost patience. It tasted great browned. Added to the smoky under notes in the cheese. Add the garlic when the onion is browned and saute for one minute. Remove the onion to a food processor and puree it. This makes an onion paste that I love. My kids (well just the big one)  don’t like onion bits in their food, so this also helps me ensure they will eat the finished dish. 

Spread this over the bottom of a baking dish. Cover with the diced cauliflower. You need the cauliflower very tiny, as we did not precook it at all. 
Cover the cauliflower with a generous portion of sauce. Cover with foil and place the baking dish on a sheet pan in case of overflow. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until fork tender. 
In a pan, melt the butter and lightly cook the breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then stir in the parsley. Remove the foil and cover the gratin with the breadcrumbs. Put it back in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until browned. 
Serve piping hot, with a touch of fume de sel, if you have it. I love the smoked crunchy salt on top of the smoky cheddar sauce. 
A votre santé! 

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