Cauliflower is a beautiful vegetable. The usual variety is snowy white and reminds me of the huge cumulus clouds that build over the New Mexico mountains during the summer and fall. Those clouds are very much a part of the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. Now there are cauliflower varieties of electric green and purple. They are also gorgeous and beg to be eaten. A creative cook can find many ways to prepare cauliflower. You can use it raw as a crudité along with a dip, or heaven forbid, ranch dressing, or in a garden salad. You can roast it in thick slabs, and then it tastes almost like steak. The Indians use it for delicious pakoras. There are other ways to prepare it, but the fallback in most home kitchens is a steamed head of cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce. Actually, I love that combination, but in my hands the cauliflower gets soggy in the steamer and the cheese sauce slides off the cauliflower into a pool on the plate. This is my effort to correct those shortcomings by roasting the cauliflower and using a thick sauce that clings to the head of cauliflower and browns quickly in the oven.
Three-Cheese Roasted Cauliflower
- 1 large cauliflower, washed, trimmed of leaves and stem
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup grated Swiss cheese
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons panko
- melted unsalted butter
- Place the cauliflower head in a well-buttered baking dish. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil until you are ready to add the sauce.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flavor of the flour. Add the milk, and stir until the mixture is thickened. Stir in the Cheddar cheese and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Spread the sauce over the roasted cauliflower, sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, Parmesan, and panko. Drizzle melted butter over the top.
- Return to the oven and increase the temperature to 400°F. Roast until the topping is lightly browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately while still warm. I served it with sliced New York strip steak, but it will go with just about any protein you might like.