Cauliflower and Carrot Gratin

Cauliflower and Carrot Gratin

Cauliflower and Carrot Gratin Who would have thunk it? This was outrageously delicious — and to think, I’d been about to write it off as a disaster. Here’s the deal, I’m trying to widen my veggie repetoire, and I seemed to remember an entry early in the Julie/Julia Project about cauliflower gratin, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I added carrots to mine because, well, it was a small cauliflower and it was so white … I like a little color in my food.
Here’s what I did: cut the cauliflower into florets and cut one big carrot into those ovals you get when you slice on the bias. You want about the same amount of carrot and cauliflower, enough to cover a baking dish in a nice even layer. I put them in salted water and blanched for about five minutes, then drained and dumped into the buttered baking dish (mine is an oval one, about 11 inches long).
Then you make the sauce (any decent cookbook can tell you how to make this sauce — Fannie Farmer, Joy of Cooking, etc … so if you need exact directions, I’d go there). You’ll need to grate about 1 cup of cheese at this point and put it aside. I used half cheddar and half swiss, because that’s what I had in the fridge (and the cheddar was getting old). In a small saucepan you want to bring 2 cups milk, 2 cloves, a bay leaf, and a smashed clove of garlic just to a simmer. When the milk simmers, you need to make the roux. In a separate pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, and add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir around on low to medium heat until it all clumps together and starts to smell slightly toasty. At this point, you want to fish the spices out of the simmering milk (I left the garlic in, because I like garlic) and slowly pour the milk into the roux while whisking. I tend to add about 1/2 cup of milk at a time, and whisk until smooth before adding the next 1/2 cup of milk. Then I added a hefty shake of cayenne pepper (probably 1/4 tsp. but as cayenne varies widely in potency, use your own judgement), and grated some nutmeg in (again, I just grated until it smelled right. I think the proportion was about 1/2 as much nutmeg as cayenne), and added about a teaspoon of salt. The recipe I was (sort of) following said to add 1 tablespoon of cognac or brandy at this point, but I didn’t have any, so I added a slug of white wine out of the glass I was drinking from on the theory that cheese fondue often has white wine in it, so it would probably work in this recipe. All the while I was stirring and waiting for the white sauce to begin to thicken, when it did, I started adding the cheese, a little at a time until it was all incorporated and smooth Then I poured the sauce over the vegetables in the gratin dish, and sprinkled with a pretty generous topping of bread crumbs. I dotted it with butter and into a 400 degree oven it went. I cooked it about 40 minutes, until the whole thing was bubbly and the sauce had reduced.
This was where I thought the recipe had failed. There seemed to be way too much sauce, so I cooked it longer, and then I thought “those vegetables have cooked for 45 minutes, they’re going to reduced to mush.” But I was wrong. The veggies were good. There was just enough spice. The sauce was all custardy and quiche-y. The breadcrumbs were crunchy. It was buttery. It was delicious. With a green salad, this is a great dinner all on its own. Who knew? Cauliflower no less …

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: