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Roasted cauliflower gratin
Derrick Wcislak, Riverside Cafe
Thanksgiving has always been hosted at my parents’ house. Our overly extended Polish family would gather potluck-style, and turn my folks’ kitchen counter into a smorgasbord of Polish delights. This is one of my favorite contributions—and my relatives’ favorite—to this delectable holiday gathering.
To me, the dish epitomizes decadence. The caramelized onion, cauliflower and bacon all have a hearty presence with deep flavors. Toss in the freshness of parsley, the crunch of some almonds, then blanket it with a cheesy béchamel, and you have a dish that is rich and filling, and perfect for a meal surrounded by loved ones.
For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower
½ pound butter
1 teaspoon each ground allspice, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg
For the caramelized onions:
2 large onions, sliced thick
2 sprigs thyme
½ cup white wine
6 cloves crushed garlic
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
For the gouda béchamel:
2 cups whole milk
¼ pound butter
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon each ground allspice, cloves
1 bay leaf
½ onion, whole
1 cup gouda, grated
For the gratin:
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely crushed
1 bunch parsley, leaves picked
1 cup crispy bacon bits or lardons (optional)
½ cup sliced chives
And, of course, your roasted cauliflower, caramelized onions and gouda bechamel
To make the roasted cauliflower, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place butter and spices in a small sauce pot over low heat. Heat until butter has melted and spices become fragrant. Place the head of cauliflower on a rack, over a sheet tray. Stir together the butter and spices with a brush and baste the head of cauliflower with the mixture. Salt. Roast in oven until well caramelized, approximately 45-60 minutes. Baste with the melted butter every 10 minutes or so. Pour a little water into pan and wrap with foil. Steam the cauliflower for another 10-15 minutes. Cool and cut cauliflower into florets and chunks. Note that the stalk usually gets tender enough to use.
For the caramelized onions, start by melting butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients except for the wine. After sweating for 10 minutes, turn heat down to low, and slowly cook until well caramelized. If the pan begins to dry out, deglaze the pan with a little wine. Cooking the onions over a low flame is important for flavor development and texture. It allows the onions to slowly release moisture and caramelize, without overcooking them and causing them to become completely mushy.
To make the gouda béchamel, melt butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until flour has reached a light brown in color. Whisk in the milk, and add the bay leaf, spices and onions. Turn heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the flour taste has cooked out. Whisk frequently. Remove the onion and bay leaf. Then whisk in grated gouda and stir until melted.
To assemble the gratin, start by preheating the broiler. In a bowl, toss together all ingredients except for the béchamel. Check for seasoning. Place the mixture into a casserole dish and pour the béchamel over the top. Broil for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and vegetables are heated through. Serve.