Buffalo Cauliflower Gratin
I have so many ideas for this dish. I wonder if the combination will strike the same creative chord for you. First, here are its elements: 1) Cauliflower, steamed until sweet and tender. 2) Béchamel sauce, flavored with spicy buffalo sauce. 3) Cheddar cheese, melted.
The form I made, in the recipe you’ll read below, is a small casserole of vegetable made indulgent with creamy, spicy sauce, a browned, bubbling top layer of melted cheese. I intended for this to be a side, the way Southern-style mac ‘n cheese is a side, with some pulled pork or ribs. That picture jibed well with a certain not-too-traditional Thanksgiving spread, one that embraced both vegetables and rich food. In the end, I mostly ate portions as a vegetarian lunch, sometimes followed by a vinegar-y green salad. This was an excellent use case.
But then while I was testing and eating, I had this other idea. Series of ideas, really. What if you cut the cauliflower into teeny tiny florets and served the gratin with thin, salty tortilla chips? Call it Buffalo Cauliflower Dip. I think it’d be a hit. Or maybe you could kind of assemble cauliflower, sauce, and cheese on toast and make a little Buffalo Welsh Rarebit. I ate and I riffed. It was endless!
If you’ve thought as much about cauliflower gratin as I apparently have, I want to make sure you know that there’s a trick here: you top the cauliflower with sauce and cheese, then broil quickly, just to melt the cheese. If you cook too long, as with a potato gratin, the sauce will separate and become grainy–even if you dry your florets really well. Don’t be tempted to do this. I promise, if you broil for just a quick period, the cheese bubbles and browns, while the cauliflower stays fairly firm. If you’d like your cauliflower less firm, the simple answer is to boil it longer first. Make sense?
This post is sponsored by Tabasco as part of TABASCO® Tastemakers program. Check out my previous three Tabasco-focused BGSK recipes: Chipotle Pecans, Crispiest Fish with Tabasco Butter, and Spicy Appetizer Meatballs. All opinions, as always, are my own. Thanks for following along with this series and for supporting the sponsors who keep BGSK delicious!
- ½ large head or 1 small-to-medium heat of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed of its core, broken into large florets
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons TABASCO® Buffalo-Style Hot Sauce
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- Bring a bit pot of water to boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt and the cauliflower. Boil for about 7 minutes, until the vegetables are done to your liking. Drain well, shaking off all the extra moisture. Set aside to keep draining, tossing occasionally to dry.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter, then, when melted, sprinkle in the flour. Cook for about 1 minute, until the flour looks every so slightly golden. Then add the milk and stir very well (maybe use a whisk) to be sure there are no lumps. Bring to a simmer, then cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and the TABASCO® Buffalo-Style Hot Sauce. Taste, adding more sauce or salt if you like.
- Arrange the drained cauliflower in an oven-proof serving dish. The size isn't that important, though the bigger the dish, the more the top will brown. Spoon the sauce over the top, then sprinkle with the cheese. Broil for about 8 minutes, turning once and checking often, until the cheese is bubbly and brown.
- Serve immediately, topped with extra Buffalo-style sauce if you like.