It’s become a tradition each Christmas since we’ve moved into our house for Cameron to gift me a new cookbook. This year I lucked out with two cookbooks from him, Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes and James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson’s The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits. Both have been hailed as cookbooks that know a thing or two about flavor, and today’s Cauliflower Gratin recipe from The Broad Fork cookbook serves as a delicious reminder that the tired argument that vegetarian food lacks flavor should have been put out to pasture long ago.
Cauliflower didn’t really do much for me until recently. For most of my life, I didn’t seek out the vegetable because I believed white vegetables were akin to white bread: empty calories. Also, I thought cauliflower was bland, but that was because the only times it was on offer was as a crudité at potlucks alongside a cup of ranch dressing; ranch dressing is on the bottom of the list of things I’ll willingly ingest.
Fortunately, cauliflower experienced a renaissance in culinary circles last year, and while I can’t vouch for some of the more zany uses of cauliflower featured here, I’ve been impressed by how well its subtle flavor plays off and enhances other flavors in recipes. In this gratin recipe, the cauliflower and Parmesan/Asiago combination works great, and while Acheson’s gratin is far from low-fat, cauliflower is an excellent source for vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Proof that cauliflower is not only a nutrient powerhouse but that it doesn’t have to be relegated to the vegetable tray at parties.
(adapted from a Broad Fork Cookbook recipe)
Serves 4 to 6 as a side
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 2 garlic cloves
– Kosher salt
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 1 TBS olive oil
– 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
– 1 cup panko bread crumbs
– 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
1. Pour the cream into a small saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Watch while it’s cooking, and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the pan to prevent the cream from burning. Season the cream mixture with salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
3. In a large sauté pan over high heat, heat the olive oil and bring it to a light smoke. Add the cauliflower florets, and caramelize it on one side for 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the garlic-cream mixture. Scatter the bread crumbs on top, season with salt and black pepper, and set aside.
4. Place the mixture in a medium casserole dish, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the cheese on top of the cauliflower, and bake for 10 minutes more, until browned and bubbly.