This is a re-post of a recipe originally dated November 2015
Oh, I’ve been so bad.
I deliberately and willfully took an angelic head of cauliflower, the essence of purity with its gentle flavor, impressive nutritive value and soothing color…….and I went and did………this.
All wrapped up in a decadent cloak of dreamy cheesy-ness, topped with a smoky smattering of porky crispy-ness (NO soggy bacon here), this creamy cauliflower up-do had me at: Hello – oh no.
But how do you expect me to resist? With temptingly amazing recipe blog posts out there like the Cauliflower Cheese (thanks, Smitten Kitchen) or the Bacon Sriracha Cauliflower au gratin (thanks, Peas and Crayons) just to name a few, I had to give it up, and I too – de-flowered my cauliflower…..so to speak.
I’m sitting here smoking a cigarette as I tell you – and I regret NOTHING.
This all starts out innocently enough. After you core and trim a nice big head of cauliflower, cut it down into florets and let them take a steam for about five minutes in a nice big pot, just to get them sort of pre cooked. Drain very well, and set to the side.
Is that bacon I see over there?
How about four to five slices of that in a nice big pan. Cook the bacon on a lower heat than you would normally, like medium low. What you want is the bacon to get super dry toast-like crisp, without burning. This is how you do that, on a low heat; it just takes a little longer.
While you have that going on, melt some butter in a large saucepan. If you want to really go all in with this you can add a spoonful of the bacon drippings….and get that frothy hot. Add 1/4 cup of flour to this and stir it up as you cook so that you get a nice, golden roux (a fancy French term that just means cooking flour and fat together). This is the start of your demise!
Add the milk, a little at a time. Use a whisk for this to deter the formation of any lumps. Once the milk is incorporated and everything is nice and thick, go ahead and take it off of the heat. Add your grated cheese and spices, and a dollop of Dijon mustard. Let that cheese get all nice and melty down in that warm pot of perfection and stir it all up until smooth. It should be very thick!
Now it’s just a matter of (gently) mixing your steamed cauliflower in with that luscious cheese sauce. Turn it out into a large greased baking dish………
Finely chop your cooled bacon with a sharp knife. You are going to dust that over the top of your dish to get the perfect salty fatty crunch. You don’t want to mix it in with the cheese and cauliflower or it will get unappealingly soft…..even after it’s been well cooked. This way it stays nicely un-soggified. Of course, this method also makes it really easy to skip this step entirely if you are the non-meat, no-go bacon type. I won’t judge. Much.
Sprinkle over some of the extra cheese you left out for this very purpose. Into the oven for 25 quick minutes and then….
Helloooo, beautiful! Have I told you how good you look in red?
For all you Sriracha lovers out there (hi, Chris!) I can only say that the afore-mentioned blog Peas and Crayons knew EXACTLY what they were doing! Add a little of this and you’ve got turbo charged cauliflower on crack.
No wonder I can’t stop eating it.
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 2 cups of milk (I used whole milk)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- Approx 8 oz grated Gouda cheese , divided*
- 4-5 slices of bacon
- Sriracha sauce **
- Heat oven to 375°
- Trim and core cauliflower, cut into reasonably even sized florets.
- Steam for about 5-7 minutes until tender but not mushy, set aside
- Meanwhile cook the bacon in a large pan over a medium low heat. This will take a little while longer than usual at the lower temp but yields super crisp/not burnt bacon. This should take up to 15 minutes. Set aside on paper towels to cool. Once the bacon is completely cool, chop finely with a sharp knife.
- Melt the butter in a large dutch oven or soup pot over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of the bacon grease to this if desired. Once the fat is frothy add the flour and whisk to combine. Stir and cook for about a minute.
- Pour in the milk slowly and in a steady stream whisking the whole time. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cayenne pepper and Dijon mustard and mix well. Keep stirring and cooking, mixture will thicken up considerably, this should take about three to five minutes.
- Stir in most of the shredded cheese, leaving out roughly a quarter cup. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts and the mixture is smooth and thick. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Gently stir in the steamed cauliflower and turn into a greased 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with the finely chopped bacon and the remainder of the shredded cheese.
- Place into the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
- Eat with or without a squirt of Sriracha sauce!
- * The wedge I had was 8 ounces, I used slightly less than the whole thing.
- ** This is totally optional but was amazing! And I am not really that into Sriracha as a condiment....
- This is an amazing side dish or serve it on its own, with a simple salad of baby greens and a simple vinaigrette.
- Yum! Enjoy.