Creamy cauliflower gratin is a super tasty dish which you could serve with hot dogs or prime rib and everything in between. Perfect for a holiday meal. It’s got a crunchy panko and parmesan crust and buttery cream sauce made from the cauliflower core pieces.
I made this gratin on the stovetop using a steamer basket. If you don’t have a steamer like this, the recipe could also be adapted to using a microwave. You would just have to experiment with microwave times so you get a tender floret that’s not mushy. Easily done. Here’s a great overview of cauliflower steaming in the microwave by Eliza at Love Food Not Cooking. Check it out for some good info if you would like to make this recipe with a microwave.
Creamy cauliflower gratin is made using the whole cauliflower, core and stems included. Usually they are just thrown away since they are so tough. By doubling the cooking time for these, they become tender and are used to make the creamy sauce.
The cauliflower I used was pretty small….like 1 pound 12 ounces. It still was plenty big to make a nice casserole. This ceramic dish that I used is 9 inches across and 2 inches deep. An 8 inch square dish would also be the perfect size for this.
Making Cauliflower Gratin
Start prepping your cauliflower by removing the big leaves and trim the core slightly. Use a paring knife to cut around the core to remove it. Cut the core in half vertically and then slice it into small pieces.
Next, turn the head over and start slicing approximately 1/2 inch slabs. This will expose the tougher stems, Then use your paring knife to remove them from the florets. You don’t have to get too picky on how this is done. I just tried to make the florets about 1 1/4 inches high and chop the rest off.
As you can see, there were lots more florets than stems.
That’s okay though. Next you place the stems into a large pot or Dutch oven along with a handful of the florets…about a cup’s worth. Add the water and butter and bring to a boil over high heat.
Lower the temperature to simmer and add the steamer basket and the remaining florets. Cover the pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the florets are tender. Once they are done, remove the basket and put the florets into a bowl.
Put the pot back on the stove and simmer covered for 10 or 12 more minutes. You also can add the spices at this time.
Next, pour this into a blender with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan to produce a smooth cream, (run for 45 seconds to 1 minute). A bit of cornstarch mixed with water is also added for some thickening. You could also use an immersion blender to do this. Give this a taste and adjust seasonings.
While the cauliflower cooks. Heat a skillet on the stove and melt a tablespoon of butter then add the panko breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Keep stirring the crumbs to brown them and this will take 3 or 4 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because they can go from not done to burnt pretty fast. Once browned, remove them from the skillet to another bowl to stop the browning. Let them cool and then add about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
Spray your casserole dish with some cooking spray then add the florets and your creamy sauce. Sprinkle on the panko then bake for 15 to 20 minutes until it is bubbling around the edges.
You could also make this a day ahead. Leave the panko off the dish and cover and refrigerate. When you are ready to bake, sprinkle with the panko and bake adding 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time.
What to serve with the gratin
This dish would be great with beef, pork, or chicken. I would serve this as a replacement for potatoes or rice. All you would need is a good vegetable side dish to go along with your meal.
This recipe can also be easily doubled to serve 8 to 10 people. To do this, use a 9″ by 13″ casserole dish.
This is really a tasty Cauliflower Gratin recipe you should try. Let me know how it turns out.
Looking for some more side dishes? Here’s some favorites:
- 1 head cauliflower, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 pounds
- 4 tbsp butter, divided 3 tbsp and 1 tbsp
- 2 cups water
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground mustard seed
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp water
- Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and cut off the excess stem. Use a paring knife to score around the core of the cauliflower and remove the core. Chop the core in half vertically then chop those into small pieces.
- Turn the cauliflower over and cut into approximately 1/2" slabs to expose the inner stems. Use a paring knife to remove the stems from the florets. Chop the stems into smaller pieces if they are kind of thick. This will allow them to soften better when cooked. Keep the florets and stems separate.
- Place the stems and core, along with a handful of florets, (around a cup), into a Dutch oven or large pot. Add 2 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of butter and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and place a steaming basket into the pot along with the remaining florets. Cover the pot and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the florets are tender.
- Remove the steamer basket and place the florets in a bowl and reserve. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper to the pot and place the pot back on the stove and simmer for an additional 10 to 12 minutes for the stems and core to get well softened.
- Remove the pot from the heat and pour the contents into a stand blender. Add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese and the cornstarch and water slurry and blend for 45 to 60 seconds until the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. As an alternative, an immersion blender could be used to make the sauce smooth.
- While the cauliflower is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium high heat then stir in the panko breadcrumbs to coat. Continue to stir the crumbs around until they are a nice golden color. Pour the crumbs into a small bowl to cool. Once cool, add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Reserve this for final baking.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.
- Use an oven safe 8" by 8" dish or 9" round dish and spray with cooking spray. Add the florets and then pour in the creamy cauliflower sauce. Use a spatula to smooth. Sprinkle with the panko and parmesan breadcrumbs. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the casserole is bubbling around the edges. Let the dish cool for 15 or 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley, green onions, or chives.
- This recipe could also be made using a microwave rather than on the stovetop. I have not tested microwave times to do this, so it may require some experimenting. Just make sure that you don't over-cook the florets so that they become mushy. Doing the recipe this way would probably take less time.
- The cauliflower gratin can be made a day ahead. Just put the florets and sauce into your casserole dish and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When you are ready to bake, add the panko and parmesan breadcrumbs. The total baking time for the cold casserole would be 30 to 35 minutes.
- You can double this recipe if you'd like to serve 8 to 10 people. Use a 9" by 13" casserole dish.
- Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen.