From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I first saw this recipe in Leite's Culinaria shortly after Dorie Greenspan's book, Around My French Table, was published. I printed off the recipe but did nothing with it until the purchase and perusal of her book again brought it to mind. August marks a flood of broccoli and cauliflower in local markets and the need to use cauliflower that had been purchased moved this recipe center stage. This gratin is very easy to make, and it is quite good. My only problem is that I think this creamy, almost quiche-like, creation is too rich to be served as a side dish. That makes me a party of one, because most other reviewers think it is a perfect accompaniment to any type of roast meat. While I would not serve it as part of a dinner, I do think this rich gratin is perfect for lunch or a light supper. The dish is best served warm and eaten on the day it is made. While it can be re-heated, the gratin becomes more strongly flavored the longer it sits and the leftovers might be a hard sell. If you are looking for new ways to serve cauliflower, I urge you to give this recipe a try. I think you'll really enjoy the gratin. Here's how it is made.
Cauliflower Gratin...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Dorie Greenspan
Butter for the baking dish
1 cauliflower (a medium head, about 2 1/2 pounds or so)
1/4 pound bacon, cut crosswise into slender strips
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 ounces Gruyère (you can use Emmenthal or even Swiss in a pinch), grated
1) Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof dish and place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
2) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut florets from cauliflower, leaving about an inch or so of stem. Drop florets into boiling water and cook until fork-tender, anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the florets. (Alternatively, you can steam the florets over salted water.) Drain and rinse cauliflower florets under cold running water to cool them and pat them completely dry.
3) While cauliflower is cooking, toss bacon strips into a heavy skillet, place skillet over medium heat, and cook just until bacon is browned but not crisp. Drain and pat dry.
4) Spread cauliflower in buttered pan and scatter bacon over surface.
5) Place flour in a bowl and gradually whisk in eggs until blended. Slowly whisk in cream and milk. Season mixture with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir in about 2/3 of cheese. Pour mixture over cauliflower and bacon, shaking pan a little so that liquid settles between florets. Scatter remaining cheese over the top.
6) Bake cauliflower-bacon gratin for about 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. If top isn’t as brown as you’d like, run gratin under the broiler for a couple of minutes.
7) Gratin is best just from oven or when warm, although it can be enjoyed at room temperature, just like a quiche. You really should eat cauliflower-bacon gratin freshly made, but if you’ve got leftovers, cover and refrigerate them, then let them come to room temperature or warm briefly and gently in oven. Yield: 10 small servings.
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