Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin with Crunchy Breadcrumb Crust

Basil and red pepper flakes keep this gratin from being just another gratin. I love the bite the pepper flakes give the otherwise mellow cauliflower, but you can omit them if you're not a fan.

Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin with Crunchy Breadcrumb Crust
* Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe
* If you are following a low carb diet, you can substitute the breadcrumbs in the topping with chopped pine nuts or almonds. If doing so, cover the gratin with foil when you bake it, uncovering the last ten minutes to let the crust brown.
* Feel free to add more cheese to the cauliflower mixture if that's up your alley.

nonstick spray
2 tablespoons seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups chicken stock plus 2 cups water, for boiling cauliflower
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups hot milk (at least 2% - not skim), heated in microwave until hot but not to the point of boiling
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper OR white pepper
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
hefty pinch red pepper flakes (I like about 1/4 teaspoon)
10 basil leaves, torn
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (if you used low sodium stock to boil cauliflower, up this to 3/4 teaspoon)

1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (omit if following a low carb diet, maybe subbing with chopped almonds or pine nuts)
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8x8" casserole dish with nonstick spray then sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of Italian breadcrumbs around the bottom and sides. Set aside.

Pour the chicken stock and water into a medium pot with a lid. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully add the florets, boiling for 6-8 minutes, just until the florets pierce easily with a fork but before they begin falling apart on you. Drain.

While they're draining, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour, 1/2 a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly with each addition. If the mixture turns a dark shade of brown on you before you can blend all of the flour in, take the pan off the heat until it's nice and mixed in. Once well blended, carefully pour in the hot milk and raise the heat as you blend it in bringing it to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1-3 minutes, until thickened (should coat the back of a wooden spoon, not just run right off of it.)

Remove the milk mixture from the heat and whisk in the pepper, nutmeg, Parmesan, cheddar, red pepper flakes, basil leaves, and salt. Once mixed, stir in the drained cauliflower just until it's well incorporated (don't over blend or the florets will disintegrate on you.)

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Make the topping by combining the parmesan and breadcrumbs, then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top. Drizzle the butter evenly over the crumb topping.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes to set up before serving.

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