Cooking On A Budget: Mini Cauliflower Gratins

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mini Cauliflower Gratins


What a wonderful discovery I made when I first purchased the orange variety of cauliflower. Maybe it's all in our heads, but my husband and I are convinced the flavor is better. Looking at this gratin it looks like macaroni and cheese. So I got to thinking that if you are trying to incorporate vegetables in a dish where your kids won't know it's in there, what a perfect vegetable to add in to a macaroni and cheese casserole! In fact you could duplicate this recipe and just cook up a little bit of pasta to toss in along with it - something like a cellentani or curly elbow would be great to use.
This recipe made 4 servings in 8 oz. ramekins. You can toss this all into a larger casserole dish to bake instead of using ramekins. And if you need to feed more than four, double the amount of every ingredient.
Deep, creamy and rich in flavor this was a delicious side dish that cost a whopping $3.23 to make! Serves four at 80¢ per serving.
One thing you have to remember is that the cauliflower is going in raw so when you rough chop be sure to break it down to small pieces. And as with all vegetables, they contain lots of natural water so when these bake the cauliflower is going to release some of that liquid into the dish which helps to keep it creamy.
  • 1/3 head orange cauliflower - approximately 2 1/2 cups (liquid measure) chopped small
  • 1 1/4 cups milk + extra to drizzle in over assembled gratins
  • 1 cup (dry measure) shredded Mexican blend cheese 
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp.white pepper
  • Shortening - to grease each ramekin or the casserole dish
  1. Take 1/3 of the cauliflower and remove all of the heavy stems - you want the florets. Give that a rough chop until you end up with small pieces and place them in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pot over medium low heat, melt the butter. While the butter is melting, if you have a microwave warm 1 cup milk for 40 seconds.
  3. To the melted butter add the flour in and keep whisking over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes until you work out the raw flour taste. You are making a roux.
  4. When the roux is ready, turn the heat up to medium and slowly add the 1 cup of warm milk whisking as you go and fully incorporating it. The mixture immediately starts to thicken so keep adding the milk and turn the heat back down to low and incorporate all the milk with the roux- whisking constantly.
  5. Pull the pot off the heat, add in the cheese, salt and pepper and whisk over low heat until it's melted, pull off the heat entirely and whisk in the 1/4 cup milk.
  6. Take about 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce and mix with the raw cauliflower you have in a bowl.
  7. Grease each ramekin (or the baking dish) generously with a shortening.
  8. Fill each ramekin, top with some more of the cheese sauce. To each ramekin add an extra 1-2 tablespoons of milk to keep the sauce creamy and not have the casserole get dried out, despite the fact that the cauliflower is going to release some water of it's own.
  9. Place the ramekins on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325° oven or toaster oven, loosely tented with foil for about 50-60 minutes until the cauliflower is done and the dish is bubbling. Test the cauliflower with a sharp knife.

Last thoughts: I think this would make a fabulous side dish for Easter Dinner. What a colorful, scrumptious side dish to go along side a Baked Ham! The Mexican blend cheese was on sale last week at $2.00 per bag so I picked up two bags. You can use any kind of cheddar you want, but this blend was super in the recipe and lent color as it was white and orange cheese.

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