This cauliflower dish is cheesy in the best way possible! Think potatoes au gratin or baked macaroni and cheese—this dish has elements of both of those. I think this would make a super comforting dinner paired with a small side salad. (I know it's vegetables under all that cheese, but a few fresh veggies are always good too!) Or this could be an excellent side dish or small casserole to share, depending how you want to serve it.
Years ago I found a set of four of these little oval dishes at a thrift store. I cleaned them thoroughly and have loved baking in them ever since! You could also choose to bake this recipe in a square (8" x 8") baking dish, or 5-6 ramekins. So, if you don't have the exact same dishes as me, you've got options. Don't panic! 🙂
2-2 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
big pinch of cayenne
3/4 cup vegetable stock
3/4 to 1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and colby jack)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Pumpernickel bread)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
salt + pepper to season
Start by boiling 4-5 cups of water in a large pot. Blanch the chopped cauliflower for 2 minutes, then drain from the hot water. Pat dry. If you like your cauliflower on the softer side, you can blanch for a minute or two longer. But please note, we will also be baking it in the cheese sauce for about 20 minutes. So don't blanch for too long or you may end up with mush.
In a medium pot melt the butter with the minced garlic over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and big pinch of cayenne. This will create a paste (often called roux). Slowly add the vegetable stock while continuing to whisk to create a thinner paste. Then pour in all the milk in a slow steady stream as you whisk so the paste combines well with the milk. Now add in 2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted.
For the breadcrumbs I tore two pieces of Pumpernickel bread and combined that with the chopped parsley on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven at 350°F for 5-6 minutes. Then use a blender or food processor to finely chop into bread crumbs. If you don't have (or don't like) Pumpernickel bread, you can use wheat or any rustic bread with some texture/taste. I don't recommend white bread. It's just sort of bland for this.
Combine the cauliflower and cheese sauce and distribute among your baking dishes (or pour into one bigger pan). Top with the remaining shredded cheese and the bread crumb/parsley mix. Bake at 350°F for 18-22 minutes until the cheese looks bubbly and thick. You can see how thin it will look before baking in the photo above.
Garnish with a little more parsley and serve while still quite warm. If you like cauliflower, be sure to try this before winter is over as this is such a delicious and comforting dish. Enjoy! xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Emma Chapman and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.