I impulse bought a purple cauliflower from the farmer’s market. But look at it! It’s awesome. How could I not buy it?! The guy at the farm stand said that it didn’t taste too much different from regular cauliflower, and as far as we could tell it didn’t. But it was a really fun new veggie to try.
This year Ryan and I decided not participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture). Partially it was because we remembered too late to sign up. But we also had a lot of waste last year. We’d get a huge bag full of beautiful vegetables and we just couldn’t eat everything before the next bag and before things went bad. The thing I miss about a CSA is getting veggies I’ve never seen before. Without a CSA I never would have tried kohlrabi, garlic scapes, or rainbow chard. So I promised myself that instead of a CSA, when I go to the farmer’s market I’d try to push myself out of my comfort zone. Enter, purple cauliflower. It’s just so darn pretty!
And not only is it pretty, but cauliflower isn’t a vegetable I’ve eaten much. I looked to some of my favorite cookbooks and blogs, and what I found is that pretty much everyone covers cauliflower in cheese. I love cheese. I think cheese makes everything delicious. So, when I decided to get cooking, I went with Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (she even used purple cauliflower!). This recipe is basically the creamiest, most luscious mac and cheese – only instead of pasta it’s cauliflower.
I made it before going out to dinner with Ryan and his friend Shane, and both boys liked it. So here’s a boy approved veggie recipe. It did look weird, but it was so yummy. It was also something we’d take out of the fridge, and with each bite we’d be like “oh yeah!” Each bite was always better than we remembered. And of course, the purple-ness makes it fun.
2-3 pounds of cauliflower florets (I used a mix of purple and white cauliflower)
4 tbsp butter, divided in half
3 tbsp flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (divide this into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 375°
2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook cauliflower in boiling water for 5-6 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be a little bit tender with still a bit of crunch. When done cooking, drain cauliflower and set aside.
3. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan over low heat.
4. Add the flour to the melted butter. Stir constantly for 2 minutes. It should be a thick-ish paste.
5. Pour the milk into the flour-butter mixture. (I heated the milk in the microwave until it was steaming, but not bubbling. It was probably about a minute at high heat.) Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil.
6. Once it’s to a boil, use a whisk to stir the milk for about 1-3 minutes, until it thickens. I have a really hard time with the phrase “thicken” because it seems so vague. When has it gone far enough? What this means to me is that I put a spoon in the mixture, the liquid sticks to it, and then when I touch the spoon it feels thicker than regular liquid.
7. Turn off the heat. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of Gruyere, and Parmesan.
8. I used a 9×9″ pan. You can use something a bit larger too. Pour about 1/3 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the pan. Pour the drained cauliflower on top of the sauce.
9. Now pour the rest of the cheese sauce over the cauliflower. Mix it a bit so that everything is coated. I used a spoon to mix, and a silicone brush, to make sure the cheese was evenly spread.
10. In a small bowl mix the bread crumbs and last 1/4 cup of Gruyere. Sprinkle on top of the cauliflower.
11. Melt the last 2 tbsp of butter. Drizzle over the top of the gratin.
12. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
13. Bake for 25 minutes until the top is browned.
14. EAT IT!
Messy Level: I’m giving this three spoons. You have to use a number of dishes to make this meal (two pots and a baking pan). Also when cutting the cauliflower I had little shards of leaves and florets all over the counter and floor. Additionally, making and pouring cheese sauce is a bit messy. There are a bunch of steps and some messy conditions, but this recipe is also pretty easy and straightforward. Definitely worth making!