While I’m beefing up my casserole category these next few months, let’s touch on a cauliflower au gratin recipe. Au gratin basically means the casserole is topped with a crusty layer of breadcrumbs and cheese. Fancy name and it obviously has French origins but it tastes like something you would eat at home.
Even if yore not particularly a fan of cauliflower or like me, generally indifferent towards it, you’ll love this! I know I was surprised when Mr. Cooking Jar asked me when I was going to make it again after I hadn’t made it in awhile. It makes people want to eat their veggies!
Why? Because it’s creamy and cheesy. What makes it great is the white sauce made from a simple mix of butter, flour, milk, nutmeg and cheese. And then there’s that crusty layer I was talking about earlier. Simple breadcrumbs and cheese toppings drizzled with a little bit of melted butter gives you two textures to enjoy.
Do you see that cheese? That sauce is a combination of two types of cheese on top of the bechamel sauce. Think of it as a cauliflower version of mac and cheese, only this has a nice crusty topping. So let’s make some!
Simply whip out that casserole dish, blanch some cauliflower florets for five minutes until al dente and work on the sauce for another ten or so. The sauce is what will take up most of your time at the stove. Layer it in the casserole and top with the crusty breadcrumb mixture then bake! I make it sound so easy and it truly is.
The only thing you’ll need to be careful of is not to curdle the milk while making the sauce by not cooking it over high heat. So be patient and it’ll come out nicely. I know it’ll seem like it’s taking forever for that milk to thicken but it will. I promise! So just keep stirring or whisking until it does. And then you will have made a bechamel sauce. Tada! Then remove it from the heat and add in your cheese, nutmeg and seasonings. The cheeses will thicken it up some more to this yummy, creamy, cheesy sauce full of delicious goodness.
One word of advice is to drain that cauliflower until it’s bone dry. Any excess liquid will make your casserole watery! I’ve made this mistake before so take it from me. Bring out that colander, even if it means a little extra washing and drain that cauliflower!
Now I’ve been dreading making casseroles since I started my food blog a year ago. Just by nature, casseroles are generally blobs of food and it’s tough to work with that in food photography. But I’ll suck it up and rise to the challenge. So hopefully my blobs will not be so blobby the remainder of the year. I’d love to give you something pretty to look at and drool over and not something you’ll run away from screaming “It’s aliiive!”
Wish me luck and enjoy this au gratin!
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup Gruyere/Swiss cheese, grated and divided
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- Over medium high heat, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the cauliflower florets for 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain completely and set aside
- Over medium low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter
- Add flour and whisk constantly for 2 minutes to make a roux
- Pour in milk and bring to a simmer, whisking continuously to remove lumps until sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes
- Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg, ½ cup Gruyere/Swiss and Parmesan cheese
- Pour ⅓ of the sauce in a 1½ quart baking dish. Top with cauliflower and pour the rest of the sauce over it
- Combine breadcrumbs with remaining Gruyere/Swiss cheese and sprinkle on the cauliflower
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over the casserole
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until the top has browned
Nutrition for serving size of 6: