A comfort food side dish that is big on flavor, made with common kitchen ingredients :: healthy cauliflower tossed in a creamy sauce and topped with crunchy, cheesy goodness.
This morning I’m really feeling the winter ennui. My brain feels rather foggy, so I can barely think to say anything about this cauliflower. Which is a shame, because it is really a delicious dish.
Sidenote: I first came across the word ennui in a book I read in middle school and it’s been a favorite since. Any other word lovers out there?
The day started late because the chill in the air, coupled with the hour I spent awake in the middle of the night with my toddler, made staying under the covers that much more alluring. My belly is growing and my supply of comfy (warm) clothes are increasingly more limited. And since I failed to switch the laundry before bed last night, the cozy red robe I typically start my day in is still wet in the wash, likely smelling like my boys’ socks by now.
We kept breakfast simple– yogurt with granola and frozen fruit. Breakfast was followed by my eldest knocking down a large frame and shattering the glass. Triple vacuuming over the affected carpet, then turning on the Irish Pub Rock station for a quick dance party at my middle child’s behest.
Now, I’m sitting here filling up the space before sharing this recipe. Not with a clever story or engaging anecdote, but tales of our morning and confessions of my wish to just go back to bed for a while.
The winter seems to be flying by– I can hardly believe it’s already the middle of February. January kept me busy with birthday parties aplenty, and now I’m counting down the weeks until the baby somersaulting in my belly is safely in my arms (12 weeks!).
I can’t say that I’ll be sad to see winter go, but until it does, we will keep enjoying the cold weather staples like chili and cornbread, creamy comfort foods, and too many cookies.
This cauliflower dish is a break from our standard method of roasting and topping with Parmesan (also delicious). It’s simple enough for a weeknight meal, but has enough fancy in it to be a holiday dish or a potluck contribution.
For this dish, I have purchased both heads of cauliflower and bags of florets already chopped from Costco. Either works just fine.
To make sure that the cauliflower is soft and cooked through when it comes out of the oven, it needs a little time to steam first. While it’s steaming, you can make the simple sauce. The whole process of prepping the ingredients just takes about 15 minutes.
Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 1 head of cauliflower, or about 4-5 cups of florets
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 C milk
- 1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 1 C panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Steam the cauliflower for 5-10 minutes, or until the florets are just fork-tender.
3. While the cauliflower is steaming, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Sprinkle the flour over the butter/garlic mixture and mix with a small whisk. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking as it is added so no lumps of flour remain. Add 1 tsp salt and heat the milk over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Remove the pan from heat and stir in 1/2 C cheddar cheese.
4. Transfer the steamed cauliflower to a baking dish that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and stir until all the florets are coated and the sauce is evenly distributed.
5. Mix together the panko, 1/2 tsp of salt, paprika, pepper, and remaining 1 C of cheddar cheese. Toss with a fork to combine. Spread the topping mixture over the cauliflower, using a fork to incorporate it slightly with the top layer of cauliflower and sauce.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Keep warm or serve immediately.