Tuesday 30 April 2013

Cauliflower and Bacon Gratin

A few weeks back, I bought two huge cauliflowers for $0.96 each.  Great value, but a lot of cauliflower for just two people.  

I broke the cauliflowers into florets and then steamed them to tender crisp.  I served some of the steamed cauliflower just at it was, and some I pureed and combined with mashed potatoes.  I tossed some of the cooled florets in olive oil, seasoned them with paprika, and roasted them in the oven.  

All three dishes were very good but, even after eating cauliflower for three straight meals, we were left with the equivalent of a whole head's worth of steamed cauliflower still in the fridge. My fella was growing tired of it and wanted a change.  He asked for mac 'n' cheese.

I don't care at all for frozen cauliflower so I couldn't put the leftovers in the freezer for another time, and I dislike food waste even more than I dislike freezing those florets. I decided to make my fella's favourite mac 'n' cheese recipe using the last of the cauliflower in place of pasta, and I crossed my fingers that my husband wouldn't rebel at the idea.

Turns out I needn't have worried.  My guy enjoyed this cauliflower and bacon gratin so much that he reheated some of it for lunch the next day!  

That made me really happy.

To make cauliflower bacon gratin, you'll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons bacon fat
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (not shown)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fat free evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
  • 2 to 3 cups shredded, aged cheddar (according to taste)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cooked tender crisp
  • 1 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces and cooked
  • 1/2 loaf of day-old bread
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the bacon fat in a large pot, over medium-high heat, and use it to saute the diced onion.  

When the onion is tender, reduce the heat to medium and add in the flour.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the roux is a very pale brown and the onion has taken on a little colour.

Whisk in the chicken stock, then the evaporated milk. 

Keep cooking and stirring until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens.

Add in the shredded cheddar and stir until it melts into the sauce.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Add in the cauliflower and cooked bacon and gently stir them through the sauce until all the ingredients are well combined.

Turn the cauliflower mixture out of the pan, into an oven proof casserole dish.  

Heat the oven to 350F.

While the oven is heating, break your bread down to coarse crumbs in a food processor. (If you don't have a food processor, you can grate the bread on a box grater.)

Melt the butter over low heat.

Mix the breadcrumbs into the melted butter, tossing to distribute the butter through the crumbs.  

Season the crumbs to taste. 

Spread an even layer of buttered crumbs over the top of the cauliflower mixture.  

(You may well have some crumbs left over. If you do, store them in the freezer for another dish.)

Place the gratin on the middle shelf of the oven and bake it until it's heated through and the sauce is bubbly. (This took about 30 minutes in my oven.)

Serve your cauliflower bacon gratin as soon as it comes out of the oven, while it's still piping hot.

If you have leftover gratin, you can use it to make a tasty soup.  

Run a knife through the gratin to chop the cauliflower into soup-spoon sized pieces.  

Mix in enough chicken stock to thin the gratin to soup consistency, and heat it to a boil.

Serve it with some good bread for dipping.  It's delicious!