Any dish that involves vegetables floating in a pool of cheese makes me excited. And I’ve been trying to find time to share this Cauliflower and Kale Au Gratin with you for weeks now.
In years past, the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas have been slow for me and Plan to Plate. Since I typically help my clients stay on track with fresh, healthy meals during their regular busy work/ life schedules, they tend to require less of me amidst holiday parties and travel- when all of our calendars are turned on their ears. Happily, there has been absolutely no lull for me this time around. Instead, I’ve been managing my caseload, welcoming a new client, fielding referrals, granting gift requests, donating to school auctions, networking with other local business owners, and planning to cater a small holiday gathering hosted by a friend. I also visited the outdoor Decatur Farmer’s Market on a Wednesday not too long ago, which I hadn’t done in eons.
That poundcake was stellar! While I chatted with farmers and artisans, the sun went down super speedily, making photo-taking tricky for me. (Note to self: when the time comes to upgrade the fancy phone, be sure the camera takes excellent pictures in the dark too!) I hauled home this beautiful bunch of veggies
from the farms of local growers Steve Miller and Greg Brown. Those carrots inspired an insanely delicious risotto,
which I will share with you next time.
As you can imagine, I am thrilled that my business is growing and that feedback from my clientele is consistently positive. Beyond positive- euphoric? Sometimes my clients cuss about how much they like the food and that is emphatic praise! My heart is swelling bigger and bigger each day, and I am amazed by the path I am traveling. It seems a very natural progression is unfolding as I share love through food. I have made myself open to change and ready for challenges, and I am more motivated than ever before. Although my “personal time” is quite limited these days (since my boss makes me work all the time) the opportunities to learn are endless, and I feel empowered. And thankful.
Speaking of thankfulness, our Thanksgiving (America’s prescribed day for expressing gratitude) was fabulous. I soaked up every second of time with my mom and enjoyed a lovely feast with friends.
I think my favorite bite preceded the meal itself.
I made this butternut squash and apple soup that just exuded the flavors of fall. If you’ve never started your Thanksgiving meal with soup, I highly recommend it.
A perfect turkey,
Adam’s macaroni and cheese
and our friend Bo’s grit casserole were big hits too.
I think my mom and I made the only green vegetable entries. Her slow-roasted sesame brussel sprouts disappeared with a quickness, and our Gratin (although it cooked too long during the reheating process) is definitely worth sharing.
It all started with this beautiful head of cauliflower from Jackson Lowe Vegetable Farm
and these multi-colored bunches of kale I grabbed at the Grant Park Farmers Market.
So, you’ll need:
3 T butter
3 cloves garlic
3 T flour
2 Cups milk
1 Cup heavy cream (It’s the holidays, go ahead!)
zest of a lemon
freshly grated nutmeg
1 Cup gruyere, shredded
1 Cup Tomme or other creamy cheese, shredded
1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into big bite-sized chunks (not too little)
2 bunches kale, rinsed, spun dry and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 kohlrabi, sliced thinly on a mandolin (You could substitute turnip or potato here. Potatoes will require longer cooking time.)
2 shallots, sliced
1/2 Cup or a couple handfuls of breadcrumbs tossed with a drizzling of olive oil for the top
Start by melting your butter in a medium size pot over medium heat. Add your pressed garlic as the butter starts to melt and stir often as the garlic becomes fragrant.
Be sure your milk is warm, grab your whisk, and then turn your heat up to medium high. Sprinkle your flour into the pot and begin your stirring frenzy for the day.
Stir for one full minute and then pour in your milk a little bit at a time.
Continue to stir for another minute or two while the sauce thickens. You’ll feel the consistency change.
Add a good sprinkling of salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.
Add your lemon zest too. Turn your heat back to medium, and stir in your heavy cream. Give it a minute or two to get hot and contribute extra richness to the party.
Turn your heat back down to low and add your cheese a little bit at a time. Stir patiently until it is all melted.
Use a spoon to be sure your sauce is ready. Dunk it into the pool of cheese and turn the spoon over. Run your finger in a line across the back of the spoon. If your line sticks, test for flavor (adding more salt if it’s not nice and salty), and turn off the heat. If the line disappears, allow the sauce to cook another minute or so, until the line does remain.
Be sure you’ve got all of your pieces and parts prepped and ready to go. Preheat your oven to 350°, and let the layering games begin!
Begin with your kohlrabi (or potato if you like), creating one even layer. Sprinkle with salt.
Add half of your kale, cauliflower florets, and shallot rings. Again, sprinkle this layer with salt and pepper.
Then, drizzle half of your decadent cheese sauce over the top. Use a spatula to try to spread it out, but don’t worry yourself too much with it. The cheese is going to wrap itself around each and every one of the veggies. Have no fear.
Spread out a second layer of kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower and shallots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper all over. (You’re seasoning A LOT of veggies here!)
Drizzle with cheese one more time.
And take a second to toss your breadcrumbs with olive oil before sprinkling them over the top of the casserole. You could opt to dot the whole thing with butter instead. But, you gotta do one or the other. I was trying to be conservative (ha!) and just left the breadcrumbs naked, thinking certainly there’d be enough butter and cheese to cause the breadcrumbs to become brown and shiny. Not true. I ended up drizzling butter over the top to create the effect I wanted.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until your breadcrumbs are browned and lovely and the cheese is all melty and hot.
You can use a fork to test the readiness of the cauliflower. As long as they are fork-tender, you’re good to go! You don’t want to overcook this baby, since the cauliflower will become more and more mushy as time goes on.
If you’re like me, and you appreciate a fresh splash of green on your finished product, chop up some fresh parsley or thyme and spread it across the top. Allow the casserole to set for about 15 minutes before serving.
The beautiful thing about this Gratin is that it’s so loaded with veggies. I appreciated the texture and slight bitterness of the greens amidst the creaminess of the cheese. The kohlrabi added a special flare, piggy-backing on the sweetness of the shallot. And the cauliflower was scrumptious- even a bit nutty. Every mouthful was a pow! of homemade cheesy, vegetable-y, deliciousness. Yes, you can feel the decadence within each bite. And it’s not a dish I would recommend eating 5 times a week for life. But, serving it as a holiday side dish? Fabulous. And at least you’ll be sneaking some veggies into the party.
Well, friends, that’s all she (I) wrote for today. We’re off to get our Christmas tree and finally jump into that holiday spirit I’ve been hearing about.
I hope that you are enjoying each day to its fullest and hugging your loved ones often.
Happy cooking and eating to you,