Creamy gratins are a comforting backbone of winter cooking. Using cauliflower as the base gives you a healthy-ish dish, where the florets are enveloped in a rich, luscious béchamel sauce. I love adding diced ham or bacon, but you can easily omit it if you want a vegetarian option.
It can be a whole dinner in itself, served with a salad, or a side dish as part of a buffet. I love the simplicity of this dish, and the groans of pleasure that I hear when I serve it to family and friends.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), leaves removed, cut into florets
- 4 ounces bacon (about 4 strips), cut into 1/2 inch strips
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated Gruyere
- 1 cup grated cheddar
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Cook the cauliflower until just tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a medium frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
In a saucier or saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until the flour is all incorporated. Add the milk, half-and-half, and nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk gently until the mixture begins to boil and thickens. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the Gruyere and cheddar. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until the cheese melts to make a smooth sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a 8- x 11- x 2-inch casserole dish (or other 2-quart baking dish), spread about 1/4 of the sauce on the bottom. Add the cauliflower and sprinkle the bacon on top. Top with the rest of the sauce to cover the cauliflower. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the Parmesan has turned golden brown. Serve hot.