After weeks of mild winter, the cold has finally descended on London. In a cruel twist of fate, yesterday the zipper on my puffer coat also popped off. It was a not-so-subtle message from up above that I have perhaps overdone it a smidge with the Christmas feasting. I shook my fist at the sky, shivering. “I will not be deterred. Tonight, we feast on cauliflower cheese!”
This cauliflower cheese recipe, or cauliflower gratin, as it’s more commonly known outside of the UK, has become a family favorite of ours. It’s basically a cheesy bechamel sauce, not unlike the one I make for my classic mac and cheese, except with cauliflower. That means it’s healthier right? Rrrrrright.
Cauliflower cheese works as a winter side dish because it’s all the things you want from a side dish when it’s cold outside. It’s heavy and creamy and filling. Sometimes I make it as a side to my 4-ingredient Garlic Butter Pork Tenderloin. With a nice leafy green salad and a zesty vinaigrette dressing, it’s a pretty good spread as far as weeknight feasting standards go.
As far as prep, there’s a fair amount involved. I cut down on having to do everything at one time by chopping my cauliflower the night before and storing it in a gallon Ziploc bag in the ‘fridge. The bubbly cheese sauce I make has a little bit of sharp white cheddar and little bit of Gruyere. You can also use Emmenthal and Asiago, like I have before. I basically find whatever meltable cheese in my fridge, grate it up, and go. You need at least one of the cheeses to have a sharpness to bring life to the cauliflower, but otherwise you can choose your own adventure.
For this cauliflower cheese recipe, you’ll need two heads of cauliflower if you’ve got a group (I love baking it up in my Falcon Enamelware), but you can also half this recipe if you’re just a party of 2 or 3. Cauliflower cheese pairs really well with roasted meats, but we have been known just to scoop it on top of brown rice and eat it with a side salad for dinner. It’s pretty filling and rich as a main dish that way.
But be forewarned: consuming a lot of this cauliflower cheese could cause the zipper of your puffer jacket to throw its hands up and say, “You know what? I’m DONE with this mess.”
I’m just saying…
- 2 heads cauliflower, rinsed and cut into florets (approximately 8 cups)
- ½ cup (50g) butter
- ½ cup (50g) flour
- 2 cups (475 ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- whole nutmeg (or substitute ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg)
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
- 1 cup grated sharp Gruyere, plus extra for topping
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter and set aside.
- If you have a steamer, set it up to steam your cauliflower. If not, heat a medium pot filled halfway with water until it boil. Steam or boil the cauliflower. for 4-6 minutes, until it's cooked but still a little crisp. Drain the cauliflower using a colander and rinse with cold water to stop from cooking and set the colander over a bowl to let the cauliflower dry a little bit.
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mustard, stirring constantly to form a golden yellow paste that's a little bubbly around the edges. Slowly, slowly whisk in the milk, a little bit at a time, so that the milk and flour mixture form a silky sauce. Grate in a good portion of nutmeg and stir well. Keep stirring for a minute or two until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat.
- Immediately stir in the grated cheeses until there's a smooth sauce. Remove the colander from the bowl it's resting on and dump out any water that's collected. Pour the cauliflower into the bowl and pour the cheese sauce over it. Fold the cauliflower and the cheese sauce together until the cauliflower is well coated, then transfer everything to the baking dish.
- Sprinkle more grated Gruyere over the top and slide the baking dish into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and serve immediately.