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Some sprouts, some potatoes, and a Cauliflower Gratin redux

January 29, 2007

Sprouts and pots and caulis

Eunice had been wanting to cook up a ham for quite some time, and we finally managed to set a dinner date this past weekend. Eunice brought over the ham, and Mr. X cooked up some greens, and, in response to Eunice’s requests, I made, once again, a Cauliflower Gratin. Of course, I couldn’t make the same Gratin twice, because that would be boring. There were many variations I considered, and there is a good chance you will see them here at some point (where did this newfound love of cauliflower come from anyway?). But this time around I put together a Cauliflower Gorgonzola Gratin.

I’m really not sure what possessed me. I don’t even like Gorgonzola. Perhaps I am trying, through some kind of desensitization therapy, to appreciate moldy cheese. I just thought I might as well give it a shot, and both Eunice and Mr. X love the Gorgonzola. And shouldn’t I really be thinking of who I’m cooking for sometimes?

Despite an initial mishap resulting in the smell of moldy cheese before the moldy cheese was even out of the fridge, it really wasn’t that bad. I might be able to tolerate Gorgonzola after all. Mr X. made some excellent Brussel Sprouts and Potatoes, which I think I should be able to detail for you here. If I get it wrong, perhaps he’ll be willing to step in and make corrections. And the ham? The ham was awesome.

Making the bechamel for the gratin this time around was really a lesson in expiration dates. Sometimes you really can’t trust your nose. I had some heavy cream which was marked with a 12/31 expiration date, but I usually ignore those dates, and listen to my senses instead. The heavy cream smelled absolutely fine. It did have some chunks in it, but that happens sometimes with heavy cream. It smelled just like cream is meant to smell–until I added it to the oniony roux and started cooking it down. And suddenly, it no longer smelled like cream is meant to smell. I knew I had to toss it when Mr. X said, “Oh, no, that’s just how Gorgonzola smells.” That may be so, but it is certainly not the way bechamel is meant to smell. Into the trash it went, and I had to start over, this time with nothing but 2% milk to thicken my sauce.

Cauliflower Gorgonzola Gratin

This is actually a Gorgonzola Cheddar Gratin, but I chose such a mild cheddar that it wasn’t a prominent flavor in the Gratin. I might go for a slightly sharper one when making it again.

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 of an onion, minced
  • 2 small handfuls of flour (er, 1/2 a cup?)
  • about 1 1/2 to 2 c. milk
  • 2 c. mild cheddar
  • about 1/2 c. gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 c. breadcrumbs

First, cut the cauliflower up into smallish florets. You can leave some pieces bigger, because they will get super soft after all the cooking. Boil them in some salted water for about five minutes, drain, and let cool. I used a pretty small pan this time around (about 6 x 6 inches, maybe?) so if you’re using a bigger pan, you might need two smaller heads, or one large and one small head of cauliflower.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the onions. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, over medium-low heat, until they start to become transclucent. You don’t want them to brown. Add the flour, and whisk until it forms a thick onion paste. Slowly add the milk in, about a cup at a time, whisking continiously to dissolve the onion roux. Let all of this sort of simmer over low-ish heat for awhile, until the milk just starts to thicken. Then whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, a small handful at a time, until the sauce is nice and thick, and kind of bubbly. Remove from the heat.

Fill a baking pan with the cauliflower, in a thickish layer, so the whole pan is covered. Crumble the Gorgonzola over the cauliflower, dispersing it evenly. You can use as much as you want, really–if you like Gorgonzola more than I do, use more than 1/2 a cup. I went pretty light. Pour the cheese sauce over the whole lot evenly, and bake in a 425F oven for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take it out and sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs, and bake for another 10 minutes. Let it cool off a little before serving.

Cauliflower Gorgonzola Gratin

Brussel Sprouts, Potatoes, and Bacon

Mr. X has done a few variations on this dish over the past few months, and I think this one might have been the best. He thinks the brussel sprouts were too mushy. Of course, the potatoes take a lot longer to cook than brussel sprouts, so one way to even out the cooking time might be to parboil the potatoes first. You could also start the potatoes, then add the sprouts later, but I don’t think that would work as well.

  • 2 medium red skinned potatoes
  • 3 c. brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • about 2 strips of bacon, chopped

Sprouts and Pots

I ended up with way more pictures of the sprouts and potatoes, because, frankly, they were more colorful and much more photogenice than my cauliflower. Look at how lovely they are!

Start by trimming and halving the brussel sprouts, and cutting the potatoes into about 1 inch pieces. Toss the sprouts and potatoes in a large bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper. I think there might have been other herby things in here, but I was busy making stinky bechamel at the time, and didn’t notice. Maybe there were onions? I think there were onions. And some garlic. Hmm. Yes, definitely garlic.

Sprouts and Pots, Dressed

In a cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, until the fat starts to render out. You might need to add another 1/2 T. or so of oil, depending on how fatty your bacon is. Once the bacon is about half cooked and the skillet is nice and oily, add the brussel sprout potato mixture. It should really fill up the skillet. Stir it all up a bit, and let it cook on the stove top for about five minutes. Then, stick the whole thing in a 425F oven, and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

Sprouts and Pots, Cooked

There you have it: some sides for a lovely, thick and juicy and good yummy ham, cooked by Eunice. This was a serious midwestern kinda dinner. It was seriously good. And just because we didn’t have enough pork product, Mr. X made up some quick summer sausage cheese crostini to eat before the dinner stuffs were ready:

Sausage Crostini

These were lovely–thinly sliced baquette pieces, drizzled with olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and some grated cheddar, tossed into a toaster oven for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then topped with sliced summer sausage. And they were good.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr X. permalink
    February 1, 2007 1:29 pm

    For the brussels, there were onions 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped. And I’m sure I used more garlic, I always do. There were 4 strips of bacon, one per person and I think I used 4 brussel sprouts per person (they were almost gold ball sized). You want equal parts sprouts to potato, so depending on their sizes, adjust if needed.

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