Cauliflower power

Give the maligned veggie a much-needed flavor boost in this tasty gratin.

click to enlarge TRICK OR TREAT? There really is orange and green cauliflower in this classy gratin. - KATIE MACHOL SIMON
KATIE MACHOL SIMON
TRICK OR TREAT? There really is orange and green cauliflower in this classy gratin.

Cauliflower is a wonderful vegetable because it’s nutrient dense, full of fiber and vitamin C, and low in fat and carbs. It’s versatile in that it can be blanched, braised, roasted or steamed, and it even comes in crazy colors like orange, green and purple. The only issue I have with cauliflower is that it can be so darn bland. It's one of those foods that need a little help, ya know?

While I often opt to toss cauliflower florets with some oil and spices and roast them, I also love to be a little naughty sometimes and cover them in cheese sauce. But I never reach for the Velveeta, oh no, because as I divulged in my last recipe installment, cheese sauce is incredibly simple to make at home — and a helluva lot tastier than that rubbery yellow processed stuff.

This week, I’m combining cauliflower with the Mornay cheese sauce technique, classing them up in a fancy gratin (grah-tan) — an ingredient (usually veggies) covered in cream, Bechamel or cheese sauce and topped with breadcrumbs that is baked in the oven until bubbling hot and crispy on top.

This cauliflower gratin with sausage and smoked Gouda is easy, cheesy, and makes for a lively and flavorful side dish for your autumn table. Even the pickiest veggie hater will go for seconds on this one.

Cauliflower and Sausage Gratin with Smoked Gouda

Makes about 8 side dish servings

Ingredients


2 medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut down into bite-sized florets (I used orange and green colored)
1/2 pound pork sausage, casing removed
Butter, as needed
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (preferably whole)
6 ounces smoked Gouda, grated
Large pinch of smoked paprika (or any other type of paprika)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Steam the cauliflower in a steamer or blanch in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Drain well, put into a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add sausage; cook until done. Remove sausage from pan and add it to the cauliflower bowl.

Remove all but two tablespoons of rendered fat from the saute pan, adding in butter if there’s not enough fat in the pan. Reheat pan to medium heat, add in onions and cook until they’re soft, 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the flour completely (no white lumps) and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the milk, stirring out any flour lumps and raise the heat slightly so that it comes to a simmer. Cook until it has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in almost all of the cheese (reserve some for topping), paprika, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a large baking dish and pour the cauliflower and sausage into it. Pour the cheese sauce over the top and sprinkle the reserved cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. Serve hot.

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