Cauliflower Gratin

17 Comments

Maybe I should take a break making gratins for a while. My last gratin didn’t come out well, the Potato and Salmon one, and this one was sort of a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, they both tasted good. They just didn’t cook properly. And I even followed the directions for both, which I don’t often do.

The funny thing is, the recipe I followed for the cauliflower gratin was out of Bobby Flay’s book, Bar Americain. I bought it because I’ve been to Bar Americain during a trip to New York City with my daughter. She needed to go for an interview, and so of course I tagged along for moral and dining support.

We sadly went to Bar Americain only for drinks, because our dinner reservations that night were at Le Bernardin (incredible!).

But it’s a very large and beautiful restaurant. It reminded me of some of Stephen Pyles’ restaurants – very chic, in a casual way. After seeing the menu, I knew I wanted the cookbook.

Bobby Flay is extremely popular in the U.S. It seems like he’s been around forever, yet he still looks like a man-child! He must have 30 cooking or food-related shows on tv, because it seems he’s always on when I pass through the food channels.

My favorite is still an early show, when he barbecued everything outside on his patio with a view of downtown NYC in the background. He barbecued meats, vegetables, limes for the margaritas, because he always made a pitcher of something alcoholic, and then he’d barbecue peaches for a dessert. He seems nice and easygoing as a person.

But back to this recipe, I’m not sure what went wrong. But here it is as I made it, and anyone who has actually gone to culinary school can perhaps figure out what the problem was.

Cauliflower Gratin

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2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
3 cups whole milk, or more if needed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets, each floret cut into 2 or 3 pieces
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 10-inch baking dish.

Pour the milk into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium heavy saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute; do not let the mixture brown.

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Slowly whisk in the milk, raise the heat to high, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Monterey Jack, half of the goat cheese, and half of the Parmesan cheese.

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Season with salt and pepper. If the mixture seems too thick, thin with a little extra milk.

Transfer the sauce to a large bowl, add the cauliflower, and stir well to combine.

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Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with the remainging goat cheese and Parmesan.

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Slip a rimmed baking sheet underneath and bake until the cauliflower is tender and the top is bubbly and golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Garnish with chopped parsley.

Now the only thing I did differently, was because I was too lazy to go into my pantry. My pantry is so full of food stuffs, that it’s difficult even to go get flour. So I substituted Wondra flour for regular flour when I made the roux. I added the warm milk and the sauce looked beautiful, but when I added the cheeses, the sauce curdled. I’ve never seen anything like it. So when the gratin cooked, it become watery. I personally think there should have been some cream in the recipe instead of milk, but I still don’t understand the curdling. Anybody?

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17 thoughts on “Cauliflower Gratin

  1. Oi! Chef Mimi! I can’t believe that you and I made the same dish during the last few days! I didn’t use cream .. and it didn’t curdle … but then … I went down the old-fashioned route, and used ‘white sauce’ (béchamel) … whatever … your dish looks very delicious, whatever else you write about it!

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  2. The sauce should not boil when you add the cheese, it should melt gently in the hot sauce. I once tried to melt parmesan cheese, and it separated into curds and fat. Perhaps that was what happened to you too?
    I don’t know what Wondra flour is.
    I would probably parcook the cauliflower before adding it to such a recipe. The only gratin that I ever had a problem with was a potato dauphinois, where the potatoes were still undercooked after a long time in the oven.

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    • That is probably what I did – I added the cheese too soon. It was so strange because I’ve done this so often without a recipe, and I actually use one, and the sauce was so thin which is why I was letting it boil a bit. Parcooking would have also helped. The potatoes in my salmon and potato gratin were also way underdone. Sometime it doesn’t pay to follow a recipe! But even with the cudling, there was too much water left in the baking dish. I will always be careful when adding cheese from now on! Thanks for enlightening me!

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      • It’s always nice to learn from each other. (And no I did not attend chef school either.)
        Most recipes have mistakes in them and don’t seem to be tried. Nowadays I use recipes mostly for the inspiration of combinations of ingredients and choice of cooking techniques and change them according to my own experience of what works and what doesn’t.

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      • I agree. That’s how I cook, as well, although your preparation are way more involved than mine! I get inspired from cookbooks, then close them and go cook! Except in this case, unfortunately, where I actually followed the recipe…

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      • are you aware of how the rest of the civilized world cooks???!!!!!!! Yes, your food is more complex although I also realize the Italians can do wonderful simple recipes as well. It’s all about the best ingredients! And, by the way, I am now addicted to sous vide.

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      • Great to hear about the sous-vide :-)
        Unfortunately I am indeed aware of how the rest of the world cooks and eats. Good food doesn’t have to be involved, just think of the lamb scottadito I recently wrote about! And ketchup does not go on everything ;-)

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      • Hahaha! That’s why I used to give cooking demonstrations just to help mothers cook healthier food for their children and show how easy cooking can be. Parents who give their kids pop tarts for breakfast really upset me to this day!

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  3. StefanGourmet has answered your question, and more. What I would add is that I never use milk in gratins as I find them too runny. A little stock and single/light cream always works so much better for me, including with tuna and potatoes.

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