Cauliflower Gratin

Meatless, Sides / Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Now that the summer tomatoes have given way to ones that are more like breast implants (they look ripe and feel firm, but you wouldn’t want to bite into them), I’ve had to accept that it’s time to move on to other vegetables. Like cauliflower.

I know, it’s hard to get excited about cauliflower. There’s a reason why Yankee Candle doesn’t carry cooked cauliflower-scented votives. But something magical happens when you blanket that cauliflower in cheese sauce, top it with cheese and bread crumbs, and bake it until the top gets nice and brown. It transforms, from something you think you should be eating into a warm, rich, cheesy, gooey comfort food you can’t wait to dig into.

We ate this Cauliflower Gratin alongside a roast pork loin, but it would make a fine meatless main dish, especially for vegetarians with a serious addiction to mac and cheese. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Cauliflower Gratin

Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris”

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 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 (can be replaced with cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, and add the cauliflower florets. Cook the cauliflower for 5 to 6 minutes, until it’s tender but still firm. Drain, and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Take the pan off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
  5. 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 remaining 2/3 of the sauce evenly on top.
  6. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.
  7. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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19 thoughts on “Cauliflower Gratin

  1. Your tomato analogy cracked me up! This looks like a great substitute for potatoes au gratin. I’ve been wanting to try something like this lately and yours looks mighty tempting.

  2. This looks delicious! My teen daughter is a vegetarian and I'm always looking for something new and yummy I can feed her – she is going to love this!

    p.s. Maybe Yankee Candle would consider a Cauliflower Gratin-scented candle!!

  3. I have not tried cauliflower gratin (it looks very yummy), but I have tried mashed cauliflowers ;) Its yummy, but next time I need to cut down on the garlic. I had dragon breath!

    1. Hey Liz:
      I'm just getting caught up with this site and love it. As far as cauliflower, try baking it in a 400 degree oven. Just break florets into pieces, place in large bowl, sprinkle with oilive oil, s & P, bake on baking sheet until browned. It taste so different. It's really good. Another way is when you are making mashed potatoes, use half potatoes and half cauliflower, mash as usual and I promise you will love it.
      Good luck. Cindy

      1. Another yummy way to eat cauliflwer…..steam cauliflower and mash with quinoa or millet…fake mashed taters..add s & p…we used to make this at the vegetarian restaraunt I worked at…it rocks!

  4. So here's the thing – all my life, I have despised cauliflower. But these days, all I keep hearing is how awesome it is. I need to make a transition.

  5. I am not a vegetarian. but a serious mac and cheese addict? You've got your girl.

    I can get excited about any vegetable that's doused in cheese. Even cauliflower.

  6. Honestly, when I read the post title I was like, cauliflower???? But after taking a good long look at your photo I'm thinking YES, cauliflower!

    Happy Friday!

  7. Leave it to Ina to pair cauliflower with gruyere. I'm sure this is delicious. Thanks for the Thanksgiving side dish idea!

  8. I had a horrible experience at the farmers market the other day: I saw a basket brimming with heirloom tomatoes and though my brain said it was too good to be true, my heart leapt and I nearly dropped my basket in an effort to get to the tomatoes. Alas, they were hard and odorless (tomatoes should smell like, well, tomatoes!) and I tried to console myself with some fennel and purple broccoli.

    I can't wait to try this gratin (I am pretty obsessed with baking my meals. I can't stop!)

    I just found your blog and I think it's fantastic! I just started blogging and I find your food writing to be incredibly inspiring.

  9. I just made this and hubby raved and raved about it. Saying it's the best gratin ever. So this will be on the repeat list.

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