Side Dishing: Ina’s Cauliflower Au Gratin

Who doesn’t love cauliflower?  More importantly, who doesn’t love cauliflower drenched in cheese, bechamel, and bread crumbs…Ina Garten style!?  No one? That’s what I thought.

I bought a head of cauliflower on a whim this past weekend because it was on sale.  I had some healthful thoughts of roasting it with a bit of olive oil and garlic and serving with our butternut squash soup.  Then we ran into our friend in the bookstore, and I knew I needed a new plan.  If the soup had been a bust, we needed something to tide over hungry stomachs.  Enter Ina Garten and her blueprints for making all vegetables even tastier fare.

This recipe is more of a weekend affair, as it takes a while, mostly because of the bechamel (lots of stirring needed for this one).  It’s a good one for company, though, as you can assemble the dish in advance and then just pop it in the oven.  If you have leftovers, reheat them in the oven (or a toaster oven!)…microwaves tend to take out the delicious crunch.

Cauliflower Au Gratin

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (you can warm in the microwave)
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded or grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus a handful for topping
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; cook the cauliflower about 8 minutes – until tender, but still firm.  Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Pour the hot milk into the pan and stir until it comes to a boil (it will take a while!).  As soon as it boils, whisk constantly for about a minute, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  4. Off heat, add about a teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste, the nutmeg, half of the Gruyere and all of the Parmesan, minus a handful, to the bechamel.  Mix through.
  5. Pour one third of the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9×9 square).  Place the cauliflower on top and spread the rest of the sauce evenly.  Combine the breadcrumbs, the rest of the Gruyere, and a handful of Parmesan and then sprinkle on top.
  6. (This is when it gets really decadent).  Melt the rest of the butter and then drizzle over the gratin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown.  Serve immediately.
eat your vegetables.
eat your vegetables

The Verdict:

Do you see the amount of cheesy goodness in here?  Enough said!

Channeling Martha.

At book club this past Tuesday, my friend Kate made an amazing corn and roast tomato pie with a homemade olive oil and sesame crust.  Turns out, that delicious crust was a Martha special…though the filling was all Kate!  For my first go-round, I tried to follow the recipe, copied and pasted from Martha Stewart’s website, below.  Of course, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make a few small tweaks…kale for the spinach, shredded gruyere for the feta, a bit more garlic and whole wheat flour.

Crust

  • 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water

Filling

  • 1 large bag kale
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • big handful shredded gruyere cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • pinch salt
  • sprinkle of sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Crust: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Stir in oil and water, then knead until a ball forms. Roll out dough (on a floured surface!)  and fit it into a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Trim any excess length (I actually made a smaller version of this with extra dough in a small ramekin). Prick bottom all over with a fork and bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.
  2. Filling: Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place spinach/kale/greens in a large pot (if dry, add a little bit of water) and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just wilted. Transfer to a colander to drain. When cool enough to handle, wrap in a kitchen or paper towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Coarsely chop and transfer to a bowl. Wipe pot dry and heat oil over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl with spinach. Add cheese, eggs, and salt; stir until combined.
  3. Pour filling into crust and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake tart until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

The Verdict:

This one is a toss up.  I tasted Kate’s pie – and it was delicious.  Mine, not so much.  I burned the crust and the kale was slightly too bitter to be tasty. More cheese probably also wouldn’t hurt. Overall, well worth incorporating into the rotation (especially if I can get it to taste like Kate’s!), though I’ll need a few more tries to perfect this bad boy.

photo (2)
spinach pie and mini me.