Creamy. Cheesy. Spicy. And oh so comforting! My cauliflower au gratin has it all. It’s a wonderfully easy side dish that I have been making for years and is just the sort of cozy recipe you need right now.
As we move into another fall and holiday season I realized it was past time to update one of my favorite gratins ever! This is one of the first gratins I shared with you (second only to my Yellow Squash and Potato Gratin still with its original photos in all their glory 😉 )
Cauliflower is great this time of year and is one the vegetables I can find at my winter farmer’s market. We’ve been having a winter market here for a few years and it’s really great to have that resource, both for local vegetables and for the other vendors who sell cheese or bread or wine and so on. You can check online for local markets in your area.
The other night, when we had this for dinner, I went vegetarian and paired it with my Green Bean Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds. Great combo full of French and Mediterranean flavors! On one side we had warm and creamy cauliflower with a crispy topping and, on the other, a cool and vinegary salad. I used feta instead of goat cheese, since that’s what I had in the house, and those little French green beans I can find in my supermarket these days.
And the parsley came right from outside my door! Parsley is an excellent herb to grow since it’s so hardy. Just make sure you give it enough water! You can start it early in the spring and it will keep on going right through a few hard frosts.
What do you need?
- Cauliflower – One mid-sized head will do. Trim it up and cut it into florets.
- Cheese Sauce – Garlic, a roue of flour and butter, milk, and the cheeses of your choice.
- Horseradish – This gives it kick!
- Bread Crumb Topping – Soft fresh bread crumbs, parsley, and butter.
How to Make this
To make cauliflower au gratin cook the cauliflower until tender, then make a cheese sauce and mix it all together. Move everything to a baking dish, top with bread crumbs, and bake until bubbly and browned.
1. Cook the Cauliflower
Cut it into florets and then steam it until it is crisp tender. (As in tender but still with some firmness to it.) Once it’s done, blot it with a kitchen towel to dry off some of the water.
2. Make the Sauce
Start by sauteing the garlic in butter. Then add flour and whisk to make a roue. Give it a minute to cook off the raw flour flavor and then pour in the milk. Whisk vigorously to mix well and bring it to a bubble.
Now take it off the heat and add cheese by handfuls, whisking as you add. Once the cheese is melted, stir in the parmesan and horseradish and your sauce is done!
3. Mix the Bread Crumbs
Make the crumbs with any bread you have by breaking up the bread with your hands and then putting the torn pieces in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have rustic looking crumbs.
Then mix the crumbs with melted butter, parsley, and salt.
Tip: For extra brown crumbs, give them a saute in a hot pan for a few minutes before you use them to top the gratin.
4. Finish and Bake
Mix together the cauliflower and cheese sauce and transfer it to a baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes. The top will be lightly browned and the sauce will be bubbly.
If you try my recipe for Cauliflower au Gratin, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Stay Safe, Annemarie
Creamy Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 1 medium (~2 lb) head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp flour, divided
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 oz shredded semi-hard cheese, such as Havarti, Fontina, or Muenster
- 1 oz parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp horseradish
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- kosher salt, to taste
- Heat oven to 375F.
- Steam cauliflower until crisp tender, 5-7 minutes. Blot the cauliflower with a towel to remove any excess liquid and transfer it to a large bowl.
- While cauliflower is steaming, begin making cheese sauce.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add a little salt and saute the garlic for 30 seconds.
- Add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk with a flat whisk for 1-2 minutes. Pour in milk, increase heat to medium high, and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently and let thicken, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the hot burner before adding the cheese. Now mix the shredded cheese with the remaining 2 teaspoons of flour and add it by handfuls, whisking constantly, until all the cheese is added and the sauce is smooth. Add parmesan and horseradish, taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper.
- Mix the fresh breadcrumbs with melted butter, parsley, and a pinch or two of kosher salt. (If you like a very crisp topping, give the breadcrumbs mixture a saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.)
- To assemble, pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and mix well. Then scoop the cauliflower mixture into a casserole dish, 9x13 or equivalent. Top with breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
- Cheese: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses. It's a great way to use up small bits of cheese you have in your fridge.
- Making the Sauce: This is yet another recipe where I've used my All Clad Saucier. I really do use it a lot and its curved sides help when whisking.
- Pottery Info: And my favorite casserole dish has come out again as well.
- Breadcrumbs: Use the stale ends of any bread you have on hand and give it a whir in the blender or food processor until they are broken up but still rather rustic looking. (You don't need to get them to the tiny crumbs you would buy in a can.)
First published November 2015. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.