How to Make Cauliflower Gratin

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One head of cauliflower can feed a lot of people. Although some people claim not to like cauliflower, Béchamel sauce dresses up cauliflower in this recipe, making it a great Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish. This creamy, easy casserole will delight even non-cauliflower lovers.

Don’t be put off by the term gratin. It’s simply used to alternately describe a baking dish and a recipe that is baked under a crust. In this case, cauliflower is cooked in a creamy cheese sauce under a crust of breadcrumbs, which is a classic gratin topping.

In the following recipe for Cauliflower Gratin, the proportions of butter, flour, and milk make a fairly thin sauce. For a thicker sauce, try 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1-1/4 cups of milk and follow the technique described in the recipe.

Cauliflower Gratin

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilyana Vynogradova 2012]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Lilyana Vynogradova 2012

Special equipment: 13 x 9-inch ovenproof dish

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets (about 5 cups)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk at room temperature

2 cups grated Gruyère cheese (about 8 ounces)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to butter a 13 x 9-inch ovenproof dish.

  2. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower, bring the water back to a boil, and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the cauliflower is crisp yet tender.

  3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized saucepan and add flour. Whisk constantly, cooking over medium heat for a few minutes to remove the raw taste from the flour. Slowly add milk, whisking all the while. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes; the sauce will come to a simmer and begin to thicken. Continue whisking until smooth and then stir in the cheese until it’s melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

  4. Place the cauliflower in the buttered dish, then pour the cheese sauce uniformly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

    After you pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Bring to room temperature while the oven preheats, unwrap, and proceed with the recipe.

  5. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have lightly browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling.

    Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


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