Since last Christmas, my friends and I have had 2 dinner parties. But instead of simply meeting at someone’s place and enjoying pot luck dinner, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do the cooking together. It’s us enjoying each other’s company, learning a few kitchen tricks along the way, and simply enjoying the food from preparation, to the dinner table.
For our last party, we went for a St. Patrick’s Day theme. Naturally it would seem out of place as that feast isn’t even celebrated here, but we still went all out for it. The kitchen and dinner table was an explosion of green.
I decided to go with a really easy vegetable side dish. If you’re cooking with friends, might as well have some energy left to enjoy your food afterwards, right? I took this one as a great opportunity to teach my friends a little something about Bechamel Sauce, which is exactly the base for this one. It turned out to be a big hit, with just the right balance of the saltiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the cauliflower. Not surprisingly, it’s the first dish of the night to disappear.
- large head cauliflower (about 1 pound total)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 10 ounces Cheddar cheese or similar, grated (about 1 1/4 cup)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
Boil water (about 2 inches from the bottom), with 1 tablespoon of salt, in a large pot. Remove the green outer leaves from the cauliflower, and break apart the florets into large pieces using your hand. Leave out the hard central stalk. Once the water is boiling briskly, blanch the cauliflower florets for a minute. Drain the water out and transfer the florets into a 12- by 8-inch baking dish, arranging them in a single layer, and set aside.
In a large heavy saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low, add the flour and salt, and whisk until both are incorporated and the mixture turns golden brown, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to moderate and add the milk, whisking constantly, until a smooth sauce forms (the sauce should be thick and glossy, but still runny), about 5 minutes. (If the sauce is too thick, gradually whisk in additional milk until the desired consistency is achieved.) Add 1 cup of the grated cheese and whisk until melted, about 1 minute. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, making sure to cover all the florets. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and season with pepper, then bake until the cauliflower is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
I found the original recipe for this dish in Epicurious, another amazing website for food lovers. To go to the recipe, simply click on the following link: Roasted Cauliflower with Cheddar Cheese Sauce.