Cauliflower and Cheese for Comfort

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese

This week’s Sunday Dinner was all about comfort and simplicity. A chicken, roasted with thyme and a little salt and pepper rubbed into the skin was the starting place. But the dish that took us from familiar to comfort food was something else entirely. Z made Cauliflower and Cheese to have along with our roasted chicken. With roots in England I am sure Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table ate it to guard against the damp chill. For us, though it took a little longer to prep than we expected, it had the same benefits.

So how did she do it? First she turned the oven to 350 degrees and put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. This is the hardest part of the prep! Next a large head of cauliflower is broken into florets and par boiled: Take care they’re not overcooked; a little firmness in the bite is perfect.

Béchamel sauce is the base and if it isn’t something you have prepared before it’s one of
those standards that you will want to add to your chef’s tool belt. And easy! Just follow along:
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. paprika
2 cups milk, heated
2 egg yoke
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 Tbs. of breadcrumbs – fresh or Panko.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and stir into the breadcrumbs to coat.

In a medium size pot melt the butter, then add in the flour gradually, whisking to blend. Stir it constantly for a minute over medium heat to cook the flour. Again, gradually add in the heated milk, whisking constantly to blend. If you add it in slowly you can incorporate everything and avoid “the lumps”. Stir it constantly until it thickens. As a test, it should coat the back of a spoon if you just roll it in the sauce. Remove the white sauce from the heat and add in the egg yolks, still constantly stirring so they don’t curdle. Add in the paprika and the shredded cheese. You can put the sauce back over low heat, if needed, to keep it warm enough to melt the cheese. Add the cauliflower to the sauce and gently stir to cover.

Now you are ready to assemble! Lightly butter your dish. We used individual little pots but one glass or ceramic casserole dish will work just as well, around 9 x 13 inches. Fill you dish with the cauliflower and cheese mixture and add a topper of buttered bread crumbs. Put the dish to the oven and set the timer to 30 minutes. The timer is helpful but how do you really know your Cauliflower and Cheese is ready? When your dish is bubbly and the top has started to brown it’s ready to eat. This is not a fancy dish but I am betting it is one that could very well become a go-to dish for comfort food in our house.

We also had friends to dinner so during bake time we sat with our glass of wine and started up a game of Scrabble. It kept us from repeated window gazing through the oven door, starved puppies that we were. When it was time to carve up the chicken and sit down with our pots of Cauliflower and Cheese we were rewarded with simple flavors and a dish that was filling, winter warming and good. If you are not a cauliflower fan you could use brocoli instead – or the vegetable of your choosing. If you a hater of all veggies (shame on you) then this could be wonderful as a sauce for a traditional Mac and Cheese.

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