Gratin, yes like potatoes au gratin, those crunchy dehydrated potatoes that you drown in milk with powdered cheese, you will never make those again when you learn how easy it is to make a gratin from scratch! Living a healthy lifestyle is all about moderation, so while I love potatoes gratin, cauliflower is on the agenda tonight. A lighter alternative to the potato but can be swapped out for potatoes simply. I made mine in individual ramekins but you can do this in a casserole dish or even in a pie plate!
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
½ stick unsalted butter, divided in two
3 tbsp. flour
1 cup hot cream (heavy, light, even half and half works, or just use two cups of milk)
1 cup hot milk
½ tsp. nutmeg (optional)
¾ cup shredded Gruyere, plus 2 more pinches for topping
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup parmesan for topping
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it. Preheat oven to 350.
Add cauliflower to boiling, salted water and cook for 5 minutes, strain and set aside.
I use the same pot to create my cheese sauce because really all that happened in that pot was water, salt and cauliflower.
In a small pot heat your milk, and or cream but do not let it boil over! In the other pot, add 3 tbsp. of butter to the pan and let it melt. Once melted add 3 tbsp. flower and stir stir stir, cook on medium for approximately 2 minutes so that the raw flower is cooked out. What we are doing is making a béchamel sauce, which begins with a roux, yes, you just made a roux and you are making a fancy French sauce, and it isn’t hard! Now add your hot milk and continue to stir for one minute, remove from the heat and add your cheese, salt, pepper and optional nutmeg. Spoon half the sauce onto the bottom of your baking dish (8x8 will yield a thicker gratin with less topping, and the topping is the best part so use an 8x11 if possible) add your drained cauliflower and pour the rest of the cheese sauce over the top.
In a skillet add 1 tbsp. butter and let it melt, add bread crumbs, a pinch of salt and some black pepper and stir until they begin to brown.
Top your gratin with shredded gruyere, parmesan and browned breadcrumbs and put in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.
This is like hot lava when it comes out of the oven and if you make them in ramekins they stay hot for quite a while so be careful when you want to dig in! You can easily use this same sauce on thin sliced potatoes and make a potato gratin, or change the sauce by swapping out the gruyere for cheddar and make scalloped cauliflower!