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Step aside, mac and cheese! This saucy cauliflower bake, with bacon, onion, and pepper jack cheese under a crisp crumb topping, is vegetal-ly better. Quite literally edible flowers, heads of cauliflower are the mildest-flavored members of the cruciferous vegetable family.
Yes, bacon, cheese, mustard-cream and Panko makes this comfort food—but with vegetal benefits. Like its more aggressive sibs, cauliflower is full of antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber and more.
To make the gratin, you’ll simmer the cauli-florets with bacon and onion in chicken stock and milk, make the sauce, top with panko, and bake until bubbly. We like to serve the gratin with freshly sliced tomatoes and steamed green beans, but it works well as a side for roast chicken. If you have any leftovers, the gratin keeps well for second-day service.
Cauliflower Bacon + PepperJack Gratin
- One large or two small cauliflower heads, washed, trimmed and broken into small pieces to make at least 6 cups of florets
- 3 slices good quality bacon, medium dice
- 1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
- ¾ of a stick salted butter
- 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 ½ cups freshly shredded pepper jack cheese OR sharp white cheddar cheese
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350. In a large soup pot over medium heat, combine cauliflower florets, bacon, onion, chicken stock, milk, salt and pepper. Simmer until just tender. Remove from heat and pour through a colander, saving the liquid. Set cauliflower/onion/bacon aside, keeping the chicken stock/milk mixture by your cooktop. Melt butter in sauté pan. Add flour and whisk until roux is lightly toasted. Gradually ladle portions of the stock/milk mixture into the roux, continually whisking and adding until you have used all 3 cups of liquid and have a smooth thick sauce. Whisk in Dijon mustard. Remove pan from heat and whisk in 1 cup of the cheese shreds. Gradually combine sauce with cooked cauliflower/onion/bacon, adding sauce until mixture is very creamy but not oversauced. (If there is a small portion of extra sauce left, save for another use.) Pour mixture into casserole dish and smooth to level surface. Sprinkle surface of gratin with panko breadcrumbs; top with remaining half cup of shredded cheese. Place casserole in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot.
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