So I always wonder how the winter is going for everyone – we’re going to be up to 58 tomorrow but I’m bummed because it’s supposed to rain. But it was supposed to snow, so we’re lucky for this heat wave. Then down to a more seasonal 15 degrees by the end of the week. It seems the perfect time to tuck into some comfort, like this Cauliflower Au Gratin.
Cauliflower Au Gratin is a cozy little side casserole that’s perfect comfort food if you’re facing that big scary snow thing coming up. (The forecast isn’t looking good.) We had the Cauliflower Au Gratin at Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit at our house, but it would be great for Christmas or Easter or just any old day, maybe as a side for ham or pork chops. And why not serve as a lower carb option as a side for a steak dinner?
About Cauliflower Au Gratin:
For some reason, I almost always think of dishes that are creamy and cheesy like this Cauliflower Au Gratin as holiday fare. I don’t know why in particular. Maybe it’s because I don’t always give side dishes like veggies a lot of love during our every day in and day out dinners. Too often, it’s a veggie that’s steamed or microwaved.
This simple recipe gives your old standard cauliflower some love, for sure. And while it looks (and tastes) absolutely decadent and is perfect for a holiday or special occasion, it’s not too over the top for a weekday. It’s not too complicated, either, and it’s a great lower carb option at the dinner table.
And while I’m presenting Cauliflower Au Gratin as a side dish, if you have any leftover ham, cube some up and toss it in for a quickie leftover ham meal. It’s a great alternative to Scalloped Potatoes & Ham. And of course, if you’d like another variation, you can add a little of America’s favorite condiment, bacon. Just sayin!
Making Cauliflower Au Gratin:
Everyone at our house loved this Cauliflower Au Gratin although I admittedly overcooked the cauliflower. Yep, even food bloggers mess up – and maybe even more than normal people (coz I’ve never met a food blogger that’s normal, lol!) because we’re always trying and/or developing new recipes. Watch your cauliflower closely and be sure to remove it from the water while it’s only just cooked through and not totally soft already. If you give a couple of the florets a poke with a knife, there should be just a little resistance.
Cauliflower Au Gratin relies on a white sauce, and that’s something I’ve been making since I was a kid, in one form or another. It’s pretty simple but the key is to make sure the flour loses it’s “raw” taste as it cooks for a minute or two in the butter and then the milk needs to be added in small additions at first, whisking like mad, until the sauce is liquidy enough to dump in the rest. I have a whole page dedicated to White Sauces & What to Do with them if this is new to you. And there are troubleshooting hints at the bottom of that page if you need any.
Cauliflower Au Gratin is pretty riffable. It’s easy to double if you need more. And yes, you can add more cheese if you want. IMHO more cheese is just never wrong! As I mentioned above, turn it into a main meal with a little ham. If you want to dress it up more, sprinkle with a little cooked bacon. You can also top Cauliflower Au Gratin with an herby Breadcrumb Topping, too, although I think it is perfect just as is.
Saving Money on Cauliflower Au Gratin:
We’re paying through the nose, it seems, for cauliflower these days. When something gets popular and demand increases, the cost often rises. And cauliflower has been so popular, lately. Boy, I wouldn’t have predicted that 20 years ago! Anyway, if you have an Aldi, you’ll find it at the best price there. If cauliflower is on sale, be sure to figure out if the cost is by the head and buy the largest. If priced by the pound, weigh it on a scale so there won’t be a huge surprise at the checkout.
Shop well for that cheese. Watch the grocery store specials and coupon deals; grocery store cheeses keep for weeks, unopened and can be frozen. Once it’s frozen, though, it gets crumbly and not so good for just eating or snacking on, but works fine in casseroles like this. Buy it when it’s cheap and use it as needed.
Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 1 head cauliflower, in small bite-sized florets
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 3/4 to 1 teaspoon thyme, use most in the sauce but sprinkle a bit on top
- salt and pepper to taste (suggest 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
- 3/4 cup good quality Cheddar, white or standard plus two or three tablespoons to top the casserole, if desired.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook cauliflower until just barely tender, about four minutes. Drain thoroughly and place into a medium-sized casserole.
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk a minute or two until flour starts to look a little dry but hasn’t picked up any color. Whisk in milk, bring to a boil and stir until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and not fill in the line when a finger is run across it.
Remove from heat and add cheese, in small handfuls, stirring after each until incorporated. Add most of the thyme, salt, and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the cauliflower, using a spoon to nudge between florets, if necessary, so all are coated. If desired, top with a little additional cheese and sprinkle the top with a pinch of the thyme.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned in spots.
I’ll be posting this recipe at Fiesta Friday 200. Be sure to stop by and vote for your favorite recipes on Tuesday!