Cauliflower Au Gratin: Cauliflower florets are roasted and baked in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Parmesan and panko toppings make a crunchy topping. This incredibly delicious veggie casserole is the perfect side dish.
Cauliflower is in season, and you can make one of the most comforting and satisfying dishes with it – Cauliflower au gratin. The florets are baked in a cheesy cream sauce and the crisp baked crust on top complements the smooth creaminess underneath.
Unlike the Scalloped potatoes, the Cauliflower au gratin isn’t called by any other name. It is ‘au gratin’ meaning ‘the gratin’. A gratin is a way of baking dishes in a casserole with a topping of cheese and/or breadcrumbs with butter, baking them in the oven until the top is brown and crunchy. I have gone one better – why choose between cheese or breadcrumbs? – I have added all of that, the cheese with breadcrumbs and butter.
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The top forms a nice golden brown crust with lots of flavor in it from the cheese. Parmesan is a good choice in that as it has that umami flavor while its dry and grated texture helps it mix well with the breadcrumbs. The salt in parmesan balances the sweetness of butter and adds flavor to neutral-tasting breadcrumbs.
Underneath are the cauliflower florets in a creamy and cheesy sauce made of milk and gruyere cheese. Onion and spices give it that delicious mix of aroma and flavor that makes the cream sauce worth spooning.
We are taking a seasonal and every popular vegetable like cauliflower (cut into small florets) that’s very versatile and pairing it with a group of rich ingredients – butter, cheese (gruyere), milk, and flour to form a smooth, rich, and indulgent cream sauce. To add flavor to the cream sauce, we have sliced onion, salt, and black pepper.
Add a pinch of nutmeg for warmth and a slight sweetness—a little goes a long way without overpowering the sauce.
The crisp golden brown crust on top is made with a mix of parmesan, panko breadcrumbs (best for crisp layers on top when baked), and butter.
You can garnish with chopped parsley.
How to make cauliflower au gratin
I am sharing a very simple recipe here, but it can never be bland and is packed with flavors. Prep involves a little chopping and a little work in making a roux, which is the key to a smooth, creamy sauce, and the oven does the rest when the mix bakes.
The prep involves (Step 1) chopping the cauliflower and then frying them lightly in butter so they turn a golden brown on the edges. Put the florets in the preheated oven to bake them for a good 20 minutes so they cook and are just tender.
While the florets bake in the oven, we continue with Steps 2- 6 as below:
- Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Not too big, as you don’t want to feel a lot of raw cooked cauliflower in each bite, nor too small, that it turns into a cauli-porridge (if you get what I mean).
- Saute onions in butter for more flavor and until they turn pink. Add the flour and mix them so they make a smooth roux.
- Milk helps transform the roux into a creamy sauce.
- Add the gruyere and stir well. As the cheese melts, it turns the sauce into a rich, indulgent one.
- Add the baked and then cooled florets to the sauce and mix so they are coated well with the cream sauce.
- Transfer them to a casserole and prepare a mix of parmesan, melted butter, and panko breadcrumbs. Top the casserole with this mix. Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake. When you see a golden brown color on top, take it out and let it rest for a few minutes before you serve.
You can refrigerate this for up to 3 days. Let the dish cool completely. Wrap the baking dish with foil and refrigerate. Transferring the leftovers with any crunch toppings left will make a mash of them.
Cauliflower au gratin is a fantastic side dish to add to a table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or, for that matter, any dinner spread. It can stand on its own against or complement the other meaty heavyweights like Roasted chicken, Pork chops, Easy Grilled Chicken, or Grilled Shrimps. A refreshing salad will help reset your palette from the cheesy and creamy richness of the au gratin. Check out these light vinaigrette-based salads like White bean salad with lemon vinaigrette or Apple Kale Salad With Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
Other cauliflower recipes
I can savor almost any cauliflower dish as long as its packed with flavors. Check out some of these delicacies:
Cauliflower au gratin
- 1 large Cauliflower
- 2 teaspoon Olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- 2 tablespoons All-purpose flour
- 1 Onion sliced
- 2.5 cup Milk
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Black pepper
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1 cup Cheddar shredded
- ½ cup Gruyere shredded
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup parmesan or gruyere cheese grated
- 1 tablespoon butter melted
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Mix together panko, parmesan and melted butter.
- Clean and cut cauliflower into medium-sized florets. Toss the florets in oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for 15-20 minutes. Cauliflowers should be just cooked and tender.
- While the cauliflower florets are in the oven, make the sauce.
- Melt butter in a saucepan. Saute sliced onion until softens(no need to brown). Stir in flour for a minute until the raw smell is gone.
- Gradually add milk while stirring with the other hand. Keep adding milk until the mixture is smooth. Add salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg.
- Stir in shredded cheddar and gruyere until the cream sauce is smooth.
- Once the cauliflower are done, add to the above cheese sauce. Mix well and transfer to a 2-3 qt baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumb parmesan mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is bubbly around the edges and the breadcrumb is crispy golden brown in colour.
- Sprinkle Let it rest for 5-6 minutes before serving.