French people love gratins, it’s something you need to remember if you want to cook “à la française”. We like to bake vegetables, meat and/or pasta with some crème fraiche and good cheese in the oven for a few hours or minutes. It’s convenient, always easy to do and it can be very quick to make. This cauliflower gratin is one of those recipes, very simple to make with very few ingredients.
Cauliflower gratin only needs 5 ingredients that are the simplest and most common. I’m sure you still have butter, milk and some shredded cheese in your fridge. If you don’t have cauliflower, it’s the only thing you’ll have to buy.
This cauliflower gratin is part of my grandmother and mother’s recipes. It is a dish appreciated by children as well as adults. My mom used to make it for weeknight dinner. We usually don’t eat meat with it but it happened that my mom accompanied hers with a slice of ham and we served it with some lettuce. In France, dinners are usually a little lighter than lunch, where we usually eat outside and so we eat more.
The only slightly different ingredient I can’t find in the United States is emmental. It is a cheese that we like grated and use in a lot of recipes. In general, it is emmental that we put on our gratins but also in our pasta. For example, in France, we do not find grated mozzarella. That’s why it’s interesting for me to adapt my recipes with what I find in the US. For cheese, I turned to Swiss cheese. It’s close to emmental.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Do not hesitate to freeze the leftovers (if there are any) in a glass food container like Pyrex, then you can simply put it in the oven to warm it. If you keep them in the fridge for a few days, you can also reheat them in the skillet with a little extra milk, it’ll be delicious.
1/2cupshredded Swiss cheese (plus a handful for topping)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Wash and cut the cauliflower into florets. Cook the pieces in a large pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Check with a knife that they are tender inside and not crunchy. When it’s cooked, drain the cauliflower florets and place them in an oven safe dish.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and whisk vigorously. You will get a kind of thick cream. Then, gradually add the milk, continuing to mix with the whisk. When you are out of lumps, add the cheese until it melts and then salt and pepper, to taste. Once the béchamel is thick and creamy, it is ready.
Pour the béchamel over the cauliflower, top with the remaining grated cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Mary is a photographer, food stylist and recipe developer. She is French and grew up in Paris. "It is the beautiful country where I learned to love good cooking". Mary presently lives in Philadelphia with her husband.