a fresh perspective

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Veggies and Sides, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on March 1, 2022 by Sandy Bergsten

Many welcome the new year with self-improvement. For some its dry-anuary (not this girl) or a new fitness program (I already have a good one in place). For me, I decided I’d embrace forward-thinking-February leading into mindful-March. I’ve been working on the power of positive thought and the laws of attraction for some time, but this year, in a determined effort to shake off the languishing muddleness of the past two years, I thought I’d up my game. Well, I guess this past week the world had different plans.

If we can’t have world peace perhaps we can set our sights on what might just be the best new side dish. I found this recipe for a cauliflower gratin (one that could replace a scalloped potato and gladly greet my gluten-intolerant guests). While lush, the original rendition with its cups of heavy cream and half and half seemed a bit much. So, I tweaked and lightened it just a bit, but left it rich enough to soothe even the most frayed of nerves. Think of it as a vegetable wrapped in a cozy cashmere sweater.

Here is my cauliflower gratin with mornay sauce. Best part is you can prep all the elements of this layered dish a day or two ahead of time. Leaving you plenty of time to go for a walk to clear your head, or perhaps sip a glass of wine.

Begin by coring a two and a half pound head of cauliflower, then cut it into one-inch pieces.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets, cover with lid, and cook for four minutes, until just tender.

Drain the cauliflower and place in an ice bath for ten minutes.

Drain well, then transfer the florets to a paper towel-lined plate to dry (you don't want any liquid to dilute the sauce as it bakes.)

For the mornay sauce... 

Melt two tablespoons butter in a small pot over medium heat, then add two tablespoons flour and whisk constantly. (As I typed this I realized this recipe is not truly gluten-free, so either sub the flour for a non-wheat alternative or warn your intolerant guests before hand.)

Add the one and a half cups whole milk, whisking constantly, until it just starts to boil. 

Stir in two ounces shredded gruyere.

Continue to whisk until melted and the sauce starts to thicken, about three minutes. Add one teaspoon of kosher salt and a grind of fresh nutmeg. Remove sauce from heat and let cool for ten minutes. 

Whisk in an egg yolk, one third cup heavy cream, a half cup shredded parmesan, and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.

(The cauliflower can be cooked, blanched, set on paper towels, covered and refrigerated 24 hours in advance. The mornay sauce can be made a day ahead as well, cover the surface of with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Carefully warm the sauce in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir well and repeat if necessary, to bring it to room temperature. If the cauliflower is made ahead and refrigerated, take out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature before continuing.)

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Coat the bottom of a 10-inch square or similar sized baking dish with a thin layer of Mornay sauce.

Arrange cauliflower florets on top of sauce.

Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with a quarter cup Parmesan on top. Bake for about 15 minutes, until it bubbles. Turn the broiler onto high and broil until the top starts to brown, about 5 minutes.

Hoping you too will find this welcome news. 

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