I’ve never really caught on to the cauliflower trend. You know, the cauliflower pizza crust or the cauliflower mashed “potatoes,” but I really, really think we’re on to something different here. Coming from a girl who loves her carbs almost as much as she loves her husband, this cauliflower au gratin was intended as a side dish and ended up being the star of the meal!
(It also doesn’t hurt that it’s tossed with salty, savory chunks of pancetta. Or that it’s topped with melted gruyere and parmesan cheese. Or that it’s got a heavenly, crusty topping of buttered seasoned breadcrumbs.)
Start by steaming (or boiling, if you prefer) 2 small cauliflower for about 6-8 minutes, until it reaches your desired tenderness. While the cauliflower cooks, fry up about 4 oz of diced pancetta in a large skillet until browned, then remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. Add minced shallots and garlic to the skillet, stirring for a few minutes and getting all that flavor that pancetta left in the pan.
From there we’ll make a roux by adding equal parts unsalted butter and flour, then pouring in milk and cream, and whisking until thickened. Toss in grated gruyere and parmesan, ground mustard, and thyme, and let the flavors meld together before adding the cooked cauliflower and pancetta back into the pot. Pour everything into a medium sized lightly greased baking pan, sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs, and bake for 20 minutes or until you can’t take it anymore. We served our au gratin cauliflower with crusted chicken breasts and roasted broccolini and even treated ourselves to a second helping.
Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 2 small cauliflower
- 4 oz pancetta, diced
- 1 large shallot
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
- 1/2 tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt and black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs + small splash of olive oil or unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Start by cutting your cauliflower florets and discarding the stems, then steam (or boil) for 6-8 minutes, or until it reaches your desired tenderness. While the cauliflower cooks, fry up diced pancetta in a large skillet until browned, then remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. Add the minced shallot and garlic to the skillet, stirring for 1-2 minutes in the pancetta grease (all that flavor!).
- For the roux - add the butter to the pan and melt completely before adding the flour. Whisk well until blended, then add milk and cream and continue whisking until thickened. Slowly add in gruyere and parmesan cheeses, ground mustard, thyme, salt and pepper (and whisk, baby, whisk!) until a creamy base is formed. Add back pancetta and cauliflower and mix well until all cauliflower is coated. Taste for salt (remember that the cheese and pancetta are already salty), then place in a lightly greased baking dish.
- In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of Italian style breadcrumbs with a splash of olive oil or melted unsalted butter, then sprinkle on top of the dish. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
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