The taste of the cauliflower gratin served at my friend’s house when we were in France last year is still tantalizing my tongue. When I took the first bite, I was in heaven. The vegetable combined with the cheese sauce just melted into my mouth. Needless to say, the cauliflower was picked fresh from their own garden and the cheese was authentic French. An absolutely satisfying and savory experience. Truly one of a kind! It was, I thought, the best way to convert the otherwise bland cauliflower into a hearty meal.
In the previous few posts, I have been raving about my trips to the farmers market. I don't want to go on and on about it, but I really think that fresh cauliflower right from the garden as in our friends case or a farmers market, as in my case, can totally change the taste of this gratin. Believe me, I've tried the same thing with frozen stuff and it isn't even half as good. I invite you all to try out this amazing cauliflower and potato gratin, created with the finest cauliflower head, unblemished baking potatoes and fresh cheese bought at our farm market.
1/4 cauliflower head, cut
1 medium or 3/4 large baking potato
2 bay leaves
1tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper
For the cheese sauce-
1 tbs butter
1 small shallot, finely cut
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 tbs all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1tbs heavy cream
1/4 cup mix shredded cheese such as sharp cheddar, pepper jack, etc.
1-2 hot and sweet peppers
4 tbs powdered Parmesan cheese
1. In a pot of boiling water, add some salt, lemon juice and the bay leaves. Stir and add the cut cauliflower. Cook partially covered for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Drain the water and let the cauliflower cool. Add some pepper. Then remove the bay leaves.
2. Cut the baking potato in small cubes. In a microwave dish, place the cubed potatoes with 2 tbs of water. Cover partially and microwave for 4 minutes. Remove, let cool, then add some salt and pepper.
3. In a sauce pan, heat some butter and saute the shallots, garlic and hot and sweet peppers. Add the flour and cook for a minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking gently as you add the milk. Add the heavy cream and continue to whisk slowly. The sauce will gradually start to thicken. Now add the powdered Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and stir. Add half of the grated mixed cheese and stir.
4. Pre heat the oven to 350deg F.
5. Grease 4 ramekins with some butter or oil. Divide the cauliflower equally in the ramekins. Layer the mixed cheese equally and evenly in the ramekins. Layer the potatoes. Now add the cheese sauce until the tops are covered. Sprinkle top with some more Parmesan cheese, if desired. Alternately you can create the same layers in an oven proof casserole dish.
6. Bake at 350deg F for 45 minutes to one hour. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes before serving.
Serve hot. Sprinkle some pepper on top and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.