Was it finally winter finally? By the time I got outside, the scant millimeter of snow that we got had melted and the skies were clear. And it was warming up again.
I think that the season has been toying with me, bringing week after week of warm spring-like days alternating with gusty arctic ones. For someone who likes matching my meals to the season, this has all made for some pretty schizophrenic eating. I have found myself wanting to nibble on mâche and radishes, and then wanting to bury myself under cheese and carbs the next day.
As it is currently quite chilly, I feel like I need to hurry up and cook some cold-weather food before the temps climb back up to 60°. This cauliflower gratin fits the bill quite well. It is basically a macaroni and cheese, with the cauliflower filling in for the mac — which makes it feel somewhat healthier!
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 1/2 cups of ham, diced
1 clove of garlic, lightly smashed
1/4 cup of flour
4 tablespoons of butter, plus 1 tablespoon
4 cups of milk
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 cup of sourdough rye breadcrumbs (or any other bread you might have one hand: sourdough, rye, brown . . .)
How to prepare:
1. Preheat the over to 350°. Rub a large ceramic or clay baking dish with the smashed clove of garlic.
2. Combine the cauliflower florets with the ham in a large bowl.
3. In a medium-sized sauce pan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir in the flour. Cook the flour for about a two or three minutes (you want to get rid of that raw, floury taste). Once the flour has toasted a little, add the milk all at once and whisk everything together. Add the nutmeg. Raise the heat to medium, and continue to whisk the sauce as it thickens. Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Adjust the seasoning.
4. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and the ham. Stir everything together until the cauliflower is evenly coated. Tip everything into the baking dish.
5. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Toss the breadcrumbs in the melted butter, and then spread them evenly over the top of the cauliflower.
6. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the gratin top is browned. The sides should be nice and bubbly too. Let rest for about ten minutes before serving.