Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

cauliflower au gratin
Cauliflower Gratin. Christine Benlafquih
  • 60 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
Ratings

Gratins of all kinds are served in Morocco, from very simple and classic gratins flavored with cream, nutmeg and a hint of garlic; to more robust, cheesy concoctions like the vegetable gratin featured here. For this dish, cauliflower is pre-cooked until barely tender, then covered with a rich, cheesy bechamel sauce before being baked.

While a classic French cauliflower gratin calls for Gruyere, here I'm substituting cheeses readily found – and very popular – in Morocco: fromage rouge (Edam) and Laughing Cow. I sometimes also add parmesan, which is a bit of a luxury purchase in Morocco, but a little goes a long way as I reserve its use for the breadcrumb topping.

Vary the recipe by replacing the Edam with another cheese such as Gruyere or Gouda. The dish may be prepped early in the day and then refrigerated until baking time.

Also try these other Moroccan sides: Batter-Dipped Fried Cauliflower and Zaalouk of Cauliflower.

What You'll Need

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • For the Bechamel Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (preferably warm or hot)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Edam cheese  (grated)
  • 4 to 5 portions Laughing Cow Cheese
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste (white or black)
  • nutmeg to taste (freshly grated)
  • For the Topping:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Edam cheese (grated)

How to Make It

1. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, then wash and drain them. 

2. Boil or steam the cauliflower for 4 or 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. If boiling, be sure to drain the parboiled cauliflower thoroughly in a colander, lightly patting dry with a towel if necessary. 

3. In a medium sauce pan, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and use a whisk to combine well. Cook for a minute or two, whisking constantly, until the mixture is bubbly and smooth.

4. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly with each addition until the mixture is smooth and has no lumps. Whisk in the heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium and stirring or whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a slow boil. Cook for one or two minutes longer, until thick.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses, stirring or whisking until they have melted and are well incorporated. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

6. Pour some of the bechamel sauce into your baking dish – enough to generously cover the bottom  – then add the cauliflower, arranging the top layer so that the florets are positioned right side up. Cover the cauliflower with the remaining bechamel.

7. Make the topping by combining the melted butter with the breadcrumbs and cheeses. Distribute it over the cauliflower.

At this point, the gratin can be covered and refrigerated for later baking. Allow a little additional baking time if placing in the oven directly from the fridge.

8. Preheat your oven to 375° F (190° C). Bake the gratin, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.