About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.
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- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk, warm
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup grated pecorino Roman cheese, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup panko-style bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
Set the oven rack to the middle and preheat to 375°F. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of a pot fitted with a vegetable steamer. Cover and set over medium heat. Once the water boils, drop florets into the steamer, cover, and steam until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Grease the bottom and sides of a small casserole dish and arrange the florets in a layer inside.
Add butter to a small heavy saucepan and melt over low heat. Add shallot and cook until gently browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Whisk in flour, pepper, nutmeg, and cumin. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and heavy cream and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce comes to a boil and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the pecorino. Season to taste with salt, then pour sauce over cauliflower in casserole dish.
In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, melted butter, and remaining pecorino. Stir well and sprinkle over the top of the florets. Bake until gently browned, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, or alternatively, sprinkle with more cheese and broil briefly for a darker, crisper topping.