Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cauliflower Gratin

I had a Barefoot Contessa kind of week.  

I didn’t visit the Hampton’s, although a visit would have been lovely.  I made two Ina-inspired dishes, Salmon Cakes, that were absolutely delicious, and Cauliflower Gratin, my contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ll make the Salmon Cakes again this weekend as a bribe for my daughters to help me decorate the Christmas Tree.

And hot chocolate.

Ina Garten is, of course, The Barefoot Contessa.  What I did not know is that her show is named after a specialty food store she owned and operated in the Hampton’s in 70’s and 80’s. A dear friend of mine used to work with Ina at that very store and, in addition to being totally awed by that little piece of information, I love listening to her interesting stories and happy memories.

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly as written except I took some shortcuts.  I chopped the cheese in the mini-food processor instead of grating it (my least favorite cooking activity), I substituted panko for fresh bread crumbs, and used cauliflower in a bag that I steamed.  I knew I would not want to deal with a head of cauliflower on Thanksgiving morning and I concluded the difference, in any, between the fresh, already chopped and bagged, over the fresh head would be nicely camouflaged by the cheeses.  I used some Gruyere and Swiss, because I had both on hand and I increased the nutmeg by just a smidge, which is defined as a little less than a small pinch.

Martha has a similar recipe, but, in a rare demonstration of disloyalty, I chose Ina's recipe.

Sorry Martha.  You're still my favorite, but this recipe is delicious.  It could pose as gluten-free Mac and Cheese, minus the bread crumbs!

Cauliflower Gratin
by:  Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets, or three 10 oz. bags 
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/4 cup of Swiss, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, or panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, the Swiss, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and a little more Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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