26 March 2007

Gratin de chou-fleur

If winter is still hanging on where you live, the way it was here in Saint-Aignan last week, and if you can get fresh cauliflower, make a gratin. It's comfort food for a cold day. We've had a mild winter, and cauliflower is plentiful, beautiful, and inexpensive right now.

Cut the cauliflower up into florets and cook them in a large quantity of boiling water until they are just beginning to get tender. They'll cook more in the oven.

Cooked cauliflower florets with a cheese sauce
and grated cheese over the top, ready for the oven

Make a sauce béchamel by cooking flour in butter and then gradually adding milk until you have a fairly thick sauce. Season it with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add a big handful of grated Gruyère or other cheese and let that melt into the sauce.

Put a little of the cheese sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and arrange the cooked cauliflower florets in the pan. Pour the rest of the sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle another good handful of cheese over the top and put the whole thing in a hot oven until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling.

Browned and bubbly — let it cool for a minute before you dig in.

Don't leave out the nutmeg. It's always good with melted cheese. If the cauliflower and sauce are hot when they go into the oven, cook the dish at high temperature to brown it. If the ingredients are cold when they go into the oven, bake them at a lower temperature so they will have a chance to heat all the way through before the top gets too brown.

Serve with red wine and a green salad. It makes a great lunch or dinner.

I'm still thinking about the dog and the kitchen window, but still, you have to eat, don't you?

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