Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

Gratin de chou-fleur

Ever since my casual mention of my mother’s cauliflower gratin a few weeks ago, requests for the recipe have been steadily pouring into my inbox. A silent protest was even organized at the foot of my apartment building the other day, with eager, apron-clad cooks walking in circles and brandishing signs that read, “Cauliflower To The People” and “Let Us Eat Gratin.”

Fortunately, there is a back door to my building.

With expectations cranked up as high as the volume knob will go, I feel a little bit intimidated about actually sharing a recipe that is nothing more — but nothing less — than a classic French gratin.

Gratin de chou-fleur makes weeknight appearances at my parents’ table: the gratin plays the leading role, with a slice of brine-cured ham (jambon blanc) and a green salad as the supporting characters.

But it is a very forgiving recipe that can be prepared ahead in part, and it is a good occasion to try your hand at béchamel if you’ve never made one before. And in an effort to make your life as easy as can be, this utterly non-diva dish can stay in the turned-off oven for an hour or so before you’re ready to serve it (the béchamel prevents it from drying out) and will keep warm for a very long time as diners pass it around the table, eat, and go for seconds.

Gratin de chou-fleur typically makes weeknight appearances on my parents’ table: the gratin plays the leading role, while a slice of brine-cured ham (jambon blanc) and a green salad act as the supporting characters.

I have never seen my mother serve her gratin to company, but it seems to me that it would be well received for a casual dinner party and could even be cast for a special meal if you spruce it up a bit, say, by flavoring the béchamel with turmeric and adding a handful of chopped hazelnuts to the cauliflower (making your gratin a cousin of this soup) or, for a v. special meal, by adding truffle juice to the béchamel and a few slivers of black truffle sprinkled amidst the cauliflower. (Omit the nutmeg then.)

Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 4 to 6.

Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

Ingredients

  • One large head cauliflower, about 1.5 kg (3 pounds), trimmed and separated into florets (about 1 kg or 2 pounds when trimmed)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 60 grams (2/3 cup) freshly grated comté
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 25 grams (3 tablespoons) flour
  • 1/3 liter (1 1/3 cup) milk
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (chapelure in French)

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the cauliflower with coarse salt and steam for 15 minutes, until soft; if you're using a pressure cooker, it will take 5 minutes starting from the whistle. (The soft cauliflower is part of why I love the dish, but feel free to cook it to your liking.) The cauliflower can be cooked up to a day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.
  2. Set an oven rack in the upper half of the oven and preheat to 180°C (350°F). Transfer the cauliflower in a medium gratin dish. (At this point, you can add strips of brine-cured ham or leftover chicken, if you have some lying around in the fridge.) Season with a subtle dash of nutmeg, and top with half of the cheese.
  3. Prepare the béchamel. Have the butter, flour, and milk measured and ready. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the flour all at once and stir it into the butter with a wooden spoon (this is called a roux blanc). Cook for 3 minutes without coloring, stirring continually until the mixture turns creamy. Pour in the milk and whisk it into the roux blanc, making sure you don't leave any clumps on the bottom and sides of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, stirring with the wooden spoon or the whisk as the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Season the béchamel with salt, pepper, and a whisper of nutmeg. Pour evenly over the cauliflower, top with the remaining cheese, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and slip into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, until heated through and well gratinéed at the top; you can switch to the broiler setting for the 5 final minutes. Let rest for five minutes and serve -- you may want to warn your dining companions that the gratin will be very hot.
  5. Any leftovers can be reheated for 10 minutes at 180°C (350°F) the next day.

Notes

Alternatively, you can use this vegan béchamel recipe.

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  • http://www.patoumi.blogspot.com patoumi

    Clotilde, je fais exactement le même (et c’est d’ailleurs le sort qui attend le chou-fleur de l’île de Batz qui s’impatiente dans la cuisine); j’ai osé le servir à une invitée et son avis était formel: c’était le meilleur qu’elle n’ait jamais dégusté!

  • http://alatabledel.canalblog.com/ lorette

    J’adore le gratin de chou-fleur et encore plus quand il est servi dans un plat aussi original !

  • http://dressingfordinner.blogspot.com Gemma

    This looks delicious! I am not a fan of Cauliflower when it is the overboiled mush of my childhood but as a gratin it looks fab!

  • http://chez-becky.blogspot.com/ hélène

    En gratin, c’est vraiment fabuleux même mes filles adorent.

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    j’étais justement en train de me demander si j’allais faire la soupe au curcuma avec mon chou fleur, maintenant j’hésite!

  • Lisa

    I dont think I know what comte is, or have access to it. What would it be similar to in the states?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Lisa – Comté is a French mountain cheese from the Jura. It is more and more widely available in the States, but if you can’t find it, Gruyère or a good Swiss cheese would be good substitutes.

  • http://www.cforcooking.com Jeff

    This is pretty much one of the few ways I’ll eat the White Devil Flower!

  • http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com Victoria

    Clotilde, for some reason, I have always been intimidated by gratin, even though I have made much more complicated dishes similar to gratin in nature. I guess that it was one of those things with little logic. Yet, your recipe looks wonderful, and it even convinced me to overcome my fears. :) I have some cauliflower and Comte in the fridge, and I will be making the gratin this week. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    Lisa, if you have Whole Foods nearby, they should carry Comte. Murray’s Cheese (they have several stores as well as a website) is another great resource for high-quality cheeses.

  • Rachel

    I think if there was ever a time to put my traumatic first experience of gratin de chou-fleur behind me, it’s now! ;)

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    wow, great recipe, thanks. And the dish in the picture!! I’ve known about it before, but never took much notice – but now I see it in your picture looking lovely (and what a great idea for using it for a savoury dish!), I want it bad for my collection. I love kitchen-ware big time, y’see. – So I followed up your previous post about it – and you mention it’s kinda difficult to de-mould – I reckon they should do it in silicone!

  • Julie

    Clotilde~~and the Table Linen is so beautiful!..(I hope you’re enjoying it) A friend if mine and I recently went on a “Gratin” craze and made every type we could find recipes for..we’ll definitely add this to the list! Thanks..and of course, the book looks very inspiring!!

  • http://na-zdravi.blogspot.com/ Dianka

    Comfort food at it’s best! This looks delicious!

  • http://passionatenonchalance.com/ aria

    hi clotilde, this gratin is delicious! i made it tonight for dinner. so easy all i had to buy was the cauliflour. thx for the recipe :)

  • http://cheferik.blogspot.com/ Left Handed Sautee Pan

    I’m so making this!!! This is supreme!

  • Lisa

    Thanks so much for the quick answer!

  • http://take3eggs.com Tim

    I can understand why people wave banners outside your apartment! It looks delicious.

  • http://www.albioncooks.blogspot.com catherine

    I love cauliflower. This looks wonderful!

  • http://www.theportlychef.com/blog Scott

    Thanks so much for the recipe! We’ve been playing with different forms of vegetables over the past week in my kitchen, and my love of anything gratin places this one at the top of the weekend to-do list.

  • Alexsandra

    Hey Clotilde –perfect! and the truffle variation sounds divine–I’m going for that one.
    My question: in your photo the gratin resides in a very interesting pan indeed. What is it, a gratin pan? and why the shape (forgive my ignorance if this is daily bread sort of knowledge…but I really wanna know–what is that pan you’ve got young lady, very intriguing!
    keep shining superwoman, we love it!
    Alexsandra
    UK

  • C.

    I followed your recipe exactly (except I used the Gruyere cheese) and it was fantastic! Will definately become a staple in our house.

  • zhikang

    Hi Clotilde! Tried this recipe yesterday (albeit without nutmeg) and made some modifications to it, but still it is a great recipe! I added parboiled potatoes to the cauliflower and used Gouda instead of Comte (cant find Comte that easily over here in Singapore). Excellent excellent recipe that is really yummy! Especially with the scorched cheese! WOOHOO

  • http://www.gildedfork.com/pastryprincess monica

    Gorgeous gratin, Clotide! MMMM comte…love it. I usually use Gruyere in mine, but next time I will definitely try your recipe. Also loved that you used the Baker’s Edge pan because, personally, the crunchier bits in the corners are always the best;)

  • http://www.whatsforlunch.canalblog.com Ingrid

    C’est aussi de cette façon que je prépare le gratin de chou-fleur, rapidement devenu un “gang classique” de ma cuisine d’hiver. *
    Parfois, pour changer un peu, je le réduis en purée grossière, j’alterne avec du jambon haché pour faire une sorte de parmentier.
    Mais la plupart du temps, nous le mangeons tel quel accompagné d’une tranche de jambon ou de rondelles d’oeufs durs.

    Amicalement blog,
    Ingrid

  • http://vintagecook.blogspot.com lucette

    This is more or less the same recipe I have from my mother, except that the cheese is allowed to be variable, depending on what one has in the fridge. A much-loved favorite.

  • mary

    Just got the ingredients for this recipe! Can’t wait to make it. Also, this is my first time trying comte–it’s delicious. Thanks Clotilde. FYI: comte is available at DiBruno Bros in Philadelphia, PA.

  • Marguerite

    Clotilde,ce gratin est absolument fantastique! Je l’ai fait deux fois maintenant, et il est parfait chaque fois. C’est ma nouvelle recette favourite. Merci beaucoup!

  • Alice

    Hey there Clotilde,

    Long time no comment! Anyhoo, just wanted to let you know that I finally put together this gratin last night, and as per your usual, it was EXCELLENT! And again, such a breeze… I cheated and used fromage rapé that I already had on stock in the fridge, and I added in some lardons as well. But it was SO GOOD! Gosh, what would I do without your blog?!

    Oh, and BTW, I finally broke down and started a blog of my own, but it’s a work-in-progress, so I’m not yet sharing the URL — it will probably just be my personal ramblings anyway.

    Oh, and I heard that some gals from the bookshop I mentioned to you FINALLY contacted you — I hope a great event will be pulled together for your book release in the spring; I can’t wait!

  • melissa

    I made this for my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner on groundhog day- a very cold day here- with porkloin medallions and dijon carrots. Several in attendance didn’t like cauliflower, but they ate this like it was manna! Thank you!

  • http://blatherfrombrooklyn.wordpress.com annulla

    I did not send a recipe request, but I was the person standing on the sidewalk chanting “no gratin, no peace!”

    Thanks for the recipe – can’t wait to try this.

  • Lesley

    I knew if I came to C&Z I would find just what I needed as a side dish for tonight’s meal. As a fan of risotto on a winter’s night, I wanted something a bit lighter. What a perfect compliment this was with my pork chops and carrots (similar to melissa’s menu above). My husband and TODDLER loved it- Merci!

  • http://bakemehappy.wordpress.com zoë jessica

    I’m committed to providing my own winter since nature seems a bid reluctant this year. So even though it’s 19°C here in Milan today, I cooked this for lunch (with fontina cheese) and it was delicious… complimenti clotilde

  • http://BuildAWebsiteTonight.com Teena

    Clotilde, I haven’t had this for years and years and the aroma of a sad sad soggy cauliflower, all limp and withered in a puddle of muddy water, never really got my gastronomic juices going. I must admit I’m not very clever in the kitchen, but your wonderfully clever way of talking to us makes me want to go out and BUY A CAULIFLOWER!!

    Merci pour l’inspiration!! I just might start eating veggies again! :-)

    Ciao ciao
    Teena in Australia!
    [and coming to Paris 10-30 June 2007 - can't wait!!]

  • Lisa

    I just received a gorgeous gratin pan for my birthday and found this recipe on the web when I realized that while my new gratin pan is lovely, I don’t know what to use it for. Now I do! What a lovely-sounding, elegant recipe for winter comfort food! So excited to make it and continuing to follow your blog.

    Much warmth and many thanks to you from Los Angeles!

  • Erika

    Was hoping to make this for dinner- could I assemble the gratin a day ahead and just bake the day of?

  • http://www.obsessionwithfood.com Derrick Schneider

    Hi, I found your site after Googling “cauliflower gratin.” This looks like a great blog, and I’ll definitely be back for more!

    Well, that’s sort of true. Melissa and I remembered seeing cauliflower gratin on some site, but we couldn’t remember where. So I googled it, and I laughed when I saw the search results. Of course I had to make your version. I used Appenzeller instead of Comte, and I added caraway to the bechamel, though not enough to add more than just a hint of flavor.

    I like the idea of using the “lots-of-crust” brownie pan for the gratin. I couldn’t find my gratin dishes, so I used a pie plate instead. But we always love the chance to make a Clotilde dish.

  • Julia

    This made fantastic leftovers the next day and the day after that! The flavors blended and the cheese came through a bit more. Oh so yummy to come home to!

  • http://healthjunkie-foodyouwanttoeat.blogspot.com Elana

    I made this in my mini Staub cocottes and it turned out really great. Thank you so much for the great ideas!

  • Shruti

    Salut Clotilde!

    I’m back after a few weeks of being busy on other projects and barely cooking. Made up for it in spades today! :)

    I had both cauliflower and cheese in my fridge and wanted to use them NOW. I’ve never made a gratin before. So I turned to your blog – and there you were my knight(-ess) in culinary armour. ;)

    As usual, I keto-fied (bastardized) your mum’s Gratin recipe (pardon million) thus:

    (1) I hate soggy steamed cauliflower, which seems to retain the funky smell. So, I used your Cauli roast recipe a la Cafe Pinson. Luuurrrrrvvvveeeee it!

    (2) As I cannot use flour for the roux or milk (too much lactose, which is carb), here’s how I made the keto version of bechamel sauce

    – Slowly melt about 25-30 g butter on a very low flame.

    – Add approx. 2.5 tbsp of dessicated coconut/coconut flour very very little at a time. Keep stirring on the lowest flame – you don’t want the coconutty smell to get overbearing or for it to burn. At one point, the faux roux amalgamates into a nice thick buttery yellow mixture.

    – At this point add cream a little at a time and keep stirring. Again on a very low flame. I didn’t keep tab of the quantity of cream as I went by feel.

    – When done, take off the heat and season and grate nutmeg (as per your original directions).

    When done, the keto bechamel had a nice creamy texture to it, although obviously not the silkiness of a true roux blanc. It still tastes fantastic though! :) Who would’ve thunk, given that this was a first attempt.

    (3) I didn’t have comte at home and frankly just wanted to finish those little bits of cheese that have been lying around in my fridge. So, for the lower layer of cheese I used grated grano padano and for the top layer I used a grated Dutch cumin gouda.

    (4) Again, I cannot use breadcrumbs (the dreaded carbs) – so I substituted with dessicated coconut. Not too much or you could have the same issue with the smell.

    I am very very pleased with the end result. I so wish I could send you a picture. :)

    Bonne journee! Shruti.

    PS. If I practice my very bad French on you, would you mind correcting me?

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