With half the continental U.S. blanketed in snow, maybe some of us are looking for a little comfort food. Something warm, tasty, and possibly cheesy? Macaroni and cheese is what initially came to my mind, but when I had a look at this Ina Garten recipe for a pretty straightforward cauliflower gratin, I realized that that's basically what this is. Switch out the pasta for chunks of cauliflower, which in this recipe are covered with a cheesy bechamel (aka Mornay sauce) before baking, and you're pretty close to macaroni and cheese. And it's a touch healthier—though it's all relative when you're talking about handfuls of cheese and butter.
No secrets to this recipe, really; a nice touch of nutmeg in the bechamel brings a distinct fragrance, but it's otherwise the traditional Parmesan and Gruyère combination and a crispy skin of bread crumbs and more cheese. Cauliflower takes particularly well to the gratin treatment. If you wanted to turn it into a main course with more protein, some chopped ham would fit in quite nicely.
- 1 3-pound head cauliflower, cut into large florets
- 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 grated Gruyère, divided
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Boil the cauliflower florets until beginning to soften, but farm from tender, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauce pan, then stir in the flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often and removing any lumps. Add the warm milk (little by little at first), whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture thickens, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, 1/2 cup of each cheese, and nutmeg. Stir well to incorporate.
Pour 1/3 of the sauce into an 8 x 11 inch baking dish, then add the cauliflower pieces. Cover with the remaining sauce, then top with a mixture of the bread crumbs and remaining Gruyère. Melt the remaining two tablespoons butter and drizzle over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is browned. Hit it with a broiler to really crisp it up.