We were desperately in need of real dinner. A proper, grown-up meal taken at the table and not in front of the TV. We’ve been faking it, eating leftovers my mother-in-law sent over, going out, and snacking at odd hours for weeks. I was ready to cook something. Nothing elaborate, but a satisfying, balanced meal. I sort of achieved my goal. I meant to have another vegetable on the plate, but between chasing Violet around the living room, walking the dog, scrubbing the bathtub because somebody pooped in it (not naming names), and packing for a little trip later this week, I only managed this. Cauliflower gratin. And lamb chops. Really, really good lamb chops from Bleecker and Flamm. Which I always want to call Flourish and Blotts. We cooked the thick chops very quickly in a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Salted and peppered, rested and rare. This baked cheesy veg is a perfect side dish for the holidays, or any night of the week. You could add wine, mustard powder, or other spices, or even a squirt of Sriracha. I kept it simple. Because all we wanted was to sit down across from each other in the dining room with candles lit, with the baby fast asleep in her crib upstairs, have a glass of wine, and a lovely, quiet, delicious dinner at home. Sometimes that is all you need to restore your sanity and feel like you’re living the dream.
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups hot milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup grated Gruyere, divided
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling water, 5-6 minutes, and drain.
In a medium saucepan over low heat melt 1/2 the butter. Add flour, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil, whisking, until thickened. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup of Gruyere, all of the Parmesan and all but one half-clove of garlic.
Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup of Gruyere with the breadcrumbs. Slice butter into very small pats. Rub baking dish with garlic halve. Ladle 1/3 of the cheese sauce into a baking dish. Add the cooked cauliflower, then the rest of the cheese sauce, with or without the garlic. Top with breadcrumb mixture and butter. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 30 minutes.