Last Updated on 10 months by Tim
A creamy sauce topped with melted cheese and crispy breadcrumbs. That’s what cauliflower gratin is all about.
Preparing gratins is almost as joyful as eating them. All the anticipation that builds up once the gratin goes into the oven. It excites me to see the sauce gently bubbling away
I’ve burnt my tongue countless times but I guess that’s part of the experience. I can’t think of any dish better suited for a rainy Sunday evening than cauliflower gratin.
But before you jump straight into the recipe, here are some tips to nail this dish on your first try.
Why the cauliflower should always be precooked
I can’t stress enough the importance of precooking your ingredients whenever you’re preparing a gratin. May it be potato, kohlrabi, or, like in this recipe, cauliflower gratin. The vegetables won’t get tender enough otherwise. And no one enjoys brick-solid vegetables in his gratin.
Five minutes of precooking the cauliflower in boiling salted water are sufficient for this recipe. I also add white wine vinegar to the cooking water which helps to preserve the white color of the cauliflower florets.
There are many different approaches on how to sauce cauliflower. The simplest way to sauce cauliflower gratin is to use heavy cream. Season the cream with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Done.
A more sophisticated way would be to prepare a Sauce Béchamel that can be enriched with cheese. Or in the summertime, substitute the Sauce Béchamel with tomato sauce.
For my sauce, I use the cauliflower stem. It’s a part of the cauliflower that often gets trimmed off and ends up in the trashcan. But just like broccoli stems, the cauliflower stem is completely edible and packed with flavor. I cook it in milk just until tender and then puree it into a creamy sauce. The flavor intensity you will get in the finished gratin using this method is incredible.
If you’re a regular reader, you might’ve noticed by now that I love shallots. I use them in my sauces instead of onions because they’re milder in taste than regular onions. Cauliflower by itself has a rather subtle aroma which you don’t want to overpower with sharp-tasting onions. However, if you can’t source shallots, feel free to use regular onions instead
How to bake your cauliflower gratin in the oven
Cauliflower gratin is the ideal candidate for a make-ahead meal. Precook the cauliflower, make the sauce, mix, and let the flavors mingle inside a casserole dish. Shortly before baking, sprinkle with shredded cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for half an hour and dinner is ready. Perfect if you’re hosting a dinner party.
The cheeses I like to use for cauliflower gratin are Emmental or mountain cheese. They taste nutty and melt well. However, you can substitute any mild-tasting cheese that you have on hand.
For the last few minutes of baking, I recommend you to turn on your broiler. This will ensure a crisp crust and give the top these beautiful brown spots we all love.