Cauliflower gratin with nutmeg

Food and Style - Cauliflower gratin with nutmegCome November, I eagerly hunt for cauliflowers at my farmers’ market — precious and wondrous gifts from Mother Earth.

The cauliflowers grown by local farmers are not the oversized, Popeye-like grocery store variety. They are usually small in size, delicate and crispy. They come in all kinds of different colors (snow-white, orange, purple, lime-green), and shapes (the Romanesque cauliflower pictured above, with its pointy florets, always attracts lots of attention from shoppers!).

Whether they’re roasted, sautéed, fried, gently boiled in milk for a luxurious purée, or braised, cauliflowers are utterly delicious. I can honestly say that I look forward to the season all year-long!

Today’s gratin is a classic French recipe, but instead of just blanching the cauliflower (as it is normally prepared), I decided to braise it in shallots and wine until perfectly tender — a step that adds a wonderful dimension to the dish and deepens the subtle flavor of the cauliflower. Once braised, I top the tender florets with a light béchamel sauce made with lots of freshly grated nutmeg. Then I sprinkle the whole thing with a little cave-aged gruyère, pop it in the oven and bake it until golden-brown and bubbly.

Needless to say, resistance is futile!

Food & wine pairing: Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir with cauliflower gratin

Red wine iconIf you serve this gratin as a main course with a side salad, then pour a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley in Oregon, or a California Zinfandel. Both wines team up beautifully with the spiciness of the sauce and the richness of the aged gruyère.

Food and Style - Cauliflower gratin with nutmeg

Cauliflower gratin with nutmeg

serves 4
active time: 45 min

For the cauliflower

  1. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  3. 3 large shallots – peeled, halved and finely sliced
  4. 1 large cauliflower (2 1/2 lbs) (1.1 kg) – florets trimmed from stalk and cut in 2″ pieces
  5. 4 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
  6. 3/4 cup white wine
  7. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  8. freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the béchamel

  1. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  3. 2 1/2 cups milk
  4. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  5. freshly ground black pepper to taste
  6. freshly ground nutmeg to taste (use microplane grater)
  1. 4 oz (115 g) cave-aged gruyère – coarsely grated
  2. 1 medium oval or rectangular ceramic or glass baking dish; or 6 half-cup capacity ramequins – lightly buttered

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220ºC).
  2. Step 1: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and shallots and sauté for 2 minutes until the shallots start to soften but not brown. Add the cauliflower and garlic, toss well and sauté for 2 additional minutes until warmed through, tossing only a couple of times. Add the wine and toss well. Then add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, toss again. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover pan. Braise cauliflower for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Uncover pan and sauté at high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until all juices have evaporated. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  3. Step 2: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy and the flour becomes golden but not brown. Quickly add the milk and whisk constantly until the mixture is well blended. When the mixture starts bubbling, lower heat and slow-simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until the béchamel has thickened. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and remove from heat.
  4. Step 3: Pour the béchamel over the cauliflower and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until top is golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  5. Cook’s note: The gratin can be baked, cooled and refrigerated up to 2 days. To serve, bring to room temperature and bake at 425°F (220ºC) for 8 to 10 minutes until hot.

Cauliflower

main course, gratin, cauliflower

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29 Comments

  • Reply jay November 18, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Oh, wow. This looks absolutely fantastic! I’ll definitely be trying this one soon.

    • Reply Viviane Bauquet Farre November 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

      Jay! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment… You’re just wonderful! Enjoy the gratin… :)

  • Reply Divina November 18, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I love this gratin. Well, I can’t wait to eat it. Still waiting for cauliflower season here.

  • Reply Kristen November 18, 2009 at 9:14 am

    What a beautiful dish. I like using cauliflower in gratins as well and can’t wait to try braising it in wine. It must have such great flavor!

  • Reply Noelle November 18, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Looks delectable and very gourmet.

  • Reply Drick November 18, 2009 at 9:32 am

    what a great twist on cauliflower by braising it – this is so much better than my old gratin recipe…thanks

  • Reply tastyeatsathome November 18, 2009 at 10:06 am

    This sounds so heavenly. Yum!

  • Reply Shelly Huang November 18, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I love the idea of braising it in wine – I can just taste the tenderness of it. My friend has been looking for a good gratin recipe and so I’ll definitely have to point her here!

  • Reply Jessie November 18, 2009 at 11:35 am

    wow! great gratin dish, I love that you used nutmeg must try this one soon

  • Reply Cajun Chef Ryan November 18, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Cauliflower au Gratin in the traditional form here, with a Bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese is fabulous. Of course, fresh grated nutmeg is great, not just for the sauce either.

  • Reply Dana Treat November 18, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I have just recently gotten my husband to appreciate cauliflower by roasting it. I’m sure he will go crazy over this dish. That is, if I will share it with him! :) I think I could probably be very happy with just the braising – it sound incredible.

  • Reply Tam Pham November 18, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    This looks divine! I’m going to try it out for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Reply Allison Arevalo November 18, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    oh wow, that looks so so good! I usually roast cauliflower, but I have definitely been missing out.

  • Reply kristy November 18, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    I like gratin style of food and into the veggies. I’m sure they’ll love this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply penny November 19, 2009 at 12:44 am

    I love nutmeg. It adds a rather distinctive warming taste to a dish.

  • Reply Mathea November 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Gratin is one of my very favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower. I like the braising touch!

  • Reply Vegetable Matter November 19, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Your Romanesco cauliflower is gorgeous. A video — you are definitely a foodtechie or some mash-up of foodie and techie. I’m impressed! And, your cauliflower sounds amazing.

  • Reply Cookin' Canuck November 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    The nutmeg is the perfect flavor to go with cauliflower and a bechamel sauce. Great job!

  • Reply My Man's Belly November 20, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Going to be picking up some cauliflower at the farmer’s market today for this.

  • Reply Debi(Table Talk) November 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Shallots, red pepper flakes, and wine worked for me…adding the bechamel took the dish over the top~lovely!

  • Reply wasabi prime November 23, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Your photos are always a joy to admire, and it surely elevates the cauliflower to be an ingredient to reckon with! Roasting cauliflower for our Thanksgiving dinner. Always a welcome flavor for any meal!

  • Reply suzanne white November 23, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I am waiting for mine to come out of the oven. Seems yum. Je suis en France et me régale de vos bonnes choses. Merci, Suzanne White

  • Reply The Foodie Forkful November 30, 2009 at 10:46 am

    We made this for Thanksgiving – and it was a hit! Thanks for the great idea.

    • Reply Viviane Bauquet Farre November 30, 2009 at 11:40 am

      Elise! Thank you so much for your comment… You really made my day!

      Glad you love the cauliflower gratin… Hope you had a fantastic holiday…

  • Reply Mary Sue Finnerty December 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Viviane,

    The cauliflower puree was a big hit at Thanksgiving. This looks quite delicious, I will definitely give it a try. I hope you and your husband have a wonderful holiday.

    xoxo Mary Sue

  • Reply Donna Ford January 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Viviane you know I love your video’s. I can’t wait to make your Cauliflower gratin with nutmeg. Thank you again! :)

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