Monday, August 6, 2012

Cauliflower Gratin and Dog Hair

This heat mixed with dark furniture, all wood floors and four dogs is cause for a complete house cleaning anxiety attack.  I am literally vacuuming and sweeping twice per day and it doesn’t even seem to make a dent on the dog hair issue.  It is frustrating, but I intend to remain positive.  For God’s sake if a double amputee can participate in the Olympic Games and we can land another rover on the surface of Mars, surely I can control an outrageous dog hair loss problem.  *leaves to vacuum floors*

After making this cauliflower crust pizza, I’ve become very excited about all the things I can make with cauliflower.  Additionally, cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable and I need to start a new crop in my garden.  Everything I’ve read about cauliflower indicates that it is a bit of a challenge to grow.  I like a good challenge.  I WILL be the cauliflower master.

Cauliflower Gratin

Butter for the baking dish
1 cauliflower (a medium head, about 2 1/2 pounds or so)
1/4 pound bacon, cut crosswise into slender strips
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
3 ounces Gruyère (you can use Emmenthal or even Swiss in a pinch), grated

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof dish and place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut florets from cauliflower, leaving about an inch or so of stem. Drop florets into boiling water and cook until fork-tender, anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the florets. (Alternatively, you can steam the florets over salted water.) Drain and rinse cauliflower florets under cold running water to cool them and pat them completely dry.

While cauliflower is cooking, toss bacon strips into a heavy skillet, place skillet over medium heat, and cook just until bacon is browned but not crisp. Drain and pat dry.

Spread cauliflower in buttered pan and scatter bacon over surface.

Place flour in a bowl and gradually whisk in eggs until blended. Slowly whisk in cream and milk. Season mixture with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir in about 2/3 of cheese. Pour mixture over cauliflower and bacon, shaking pan a little so that liquid settles between florets. Scatter remaining cheese over the top.

Bake cauliflower-bacon gratin for about 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. If top isn’t as brown as you’d like, run gratin under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Gratin is best just from oven or when warm, although it can be enjoyed at room temperature, just like a quiche. You really should eat cauliflower-bacon gratin freshly made, but if you’ve got leftovers, cover and refrigerate them, then let them come to room temperature or warm briefly and gently in oven. Yield: 10 small servings.

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