Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cauliflower Cheese (Cauliflower Gratin)

I spent a couple of weeks in England last year and found a few gems in their often-maligned cuisine. I've already written about the fantastic chana masala I had there, but I also adored the ever-present cauliflower gratin, which they inexplicably call "cauliflower cheese". I have only recently come around to liking cauliflower, and this was one of the dishes that convinced me of its merits. I made a cauliflower mac and cheese a while ago, inspired by it. Now that my husband is on a low carb diet, I figure it is high time that I make cauliflower cheese proper!

Most recipes call for a cheese sauce thickened with roux, which is a no-go for the low carb diet. Plus, it's fussier than I'd care to be. So I created a minimalist dish that really only has three ingredients: cauliflower, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, plus whatever seasonings you like. Whether or not you're on low carb, this recipe is a great way to hit the same notes as mac and cheese, but while eating a big old plate of veggies instead! I dare say I would actually prefer it to mac and cheese!

Cauliflower Cheese
Approximately 40 oz cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen (For some reason, the Safeway by my house sells their frozen cauliflower in 20 oz bags, so this is a convenient amount for me. This recipe is flexible, so feel free to modify it for whatever increments of cauliflower are available to you.)
8 oz (approximately 1 cup) lowfat sour cream
8 ounces grated 2% sharp cheddar, a handful reserved for sprinkling over the top.  (You could add a few tablespoons of grated parm in addition to really take it over the top.)
1 t seasoning salt of choice (I like Tony Chacheres or Season All in this)
½ t garlic powder
black pepper to taste (I like a lot)
optional seasoning add-ins: dash of hot sauce, dash of Worcestershire sauce,
couple of tablespoons of bacon bits

In an oven and microwave safe casserole dish, microwave frozen cauliflower until softened, about 7-10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. In a separate bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Drain any liquid that accumulated while cooking the cauliflower. Add cauliflower to remaining ingredients, mix together, and return to casserole dish. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes, until cauliflower is hot and bubbly, and the top is slightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving; the cauliflower will absorb the remaining liquid and "set".

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