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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cauliflower, Bacon and Mushroom Gratin

Bacon and/or mushrooms are optional but make this really good

I'm not a huge fan of plain cauliflower but my mother-in-law makes a great cauliflower with cheese sauce.  It is always a hit so I started making it at home.  We now have this probably once a week at the height of cauliflower season (which is late Summer and Fall).  I was watching a British cooking show the other day (say what you will about food in England, but all their cooking shows are fantastic), and they added bacon (makes everything taste good) and mushrooms to the béchamel.  Then, they sprinkled the whole thing with breadcrumbs.  It was really good and made a great meal with a salad.  Mike says he has become a big fan of the cauliflower dish and this is also one of Kat's favorites (she hasn't had it with the bacon and mushrooms yet though).

You will need:  as a side-dish for 4
  • One medium cauliflower separated in large florets
  • 20g butter (about 1.5 tbsp)
  • 20g flour (about 2.5 tbsp)
  • 200 ml of milk (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 - 3 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp powdered chicken broth diluted in some boiling water (to make about 1/4 cup (60 ml)
  • 4 or 5 sliced mushrooms cooked in some butter and oil until soft
  • 1/2 cup (25 g) of grated gruyere cheese (or whatever cheese you like)
  • Breadcrumbs
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg

  1. Place the cauliflower florets in a large pot and fill with about 2 inches of water.   Cover and steam on high heat until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a knife;
  2. Melt the butter in a deep saucepan on medium heat and add the flour.  Stir on the heat for a few minutes to cook out all the flour taste (this is called a roux);
  3. Add the cold milk to the butter/flour mixture and whisk until it thickens and starts to boil. Add the chicken stock and leave it on a gentle boil for about 2 minutes;
  4. Add the cheese and cook to let it melt;
  5. Add the bacon and mushrooms (if you are using) and mix together;
  6. Season with S &P and freshly grated nutmeg;
  7. Strain the cauliflower florets well and place them in a baking dish;
  8. Cover with the béchamel sauce and sprinkle with breadcrumbs;
  9. Bake in a 350°F (175° C) oven for about 20 minutes, let cool a bit and serve.
Note:  It is important to add cold liquid to a hot roux or vice versa for it to work properly.  If ever it get lumps, just pass it through a sieve before adding the cheese and continue cooking.

To make a roux, the amount of flour and butter should be equal in weight.  My rule of thumb is if using 20g of flour and butter, then you should add 200 ml of liquid for a nice thick béchamel (i.e. 30 g of butter and flour = 300 ml of liquid).  If it is too thick, you can always add more liquid.

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