Vegetables. That was the main topic for week three at CulinAerie’s Masters Series class. We covered the various vegetable families along with the many different cooking methods. Dry heat. Moist heat. Saute. Roasting. Blanching. Stewing. Braising. Confit. And as usual, there were several demos and samples. A few of the highlights from class included braised fennel (usually not one of my favorites), a red cabbage confit, and today’s feature – cauliflower gratin.
I rarely use or cook cauliflower at home, but after tasting a cauliflower soup in week two’s class and then sampling a cauliflower gratin in week three, I decided to give it a try. We hosted a small dinner party last night and I served the gratin as a side dish with steak au poivre. It was a big hit and I think it’s a good alternative if you’re looking to serve something other than a standard potato dish with steak. The use of gruyere and parmesan cheese in the cream sauce provide a nice nutty flavor that pairs well with the cauliflower. Another flavorful option, which I omitted simply for a lack of the ingredient in my fridge, is to add one or two tablespoons of coarse-grained mustard into the cream sauce. One thing to note though, you should definitely let the gratin sit for 5-10 minutes before serving, which allows the sauce the settle and prevents a soupy mess when serving.
(Optional: two TBSP coarse-grained mustard) 1/4 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 5-7 minutes, until florets are tender. Drain and reserve the florets.
In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter bubbles, add the flour and stir until smooth to a make a roux. Keep stirring until the roux turns to a golden color, about 3-4 minutes. Add the warmed milk and bring to a simmer, stirring often and until the mixture thickens enough to nicely coat the back of a spoon. Mix in the gruyere and 1/2 cup of the parmesan and stir until smooth, about 2-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and, if using, mix in the mustard. Remove from heat and fold the cooked cauliflower florets into the sauce until fully coated. Transfer to a 8 x 11 inch baking dish.
Mix the remaining 1/4 parmesan with the bread crumbs and sprinkle over the mixture until evenly covered. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and the gratin is evenly browned. Feel free to finish under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to brown the top. Let the gratin rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.