A great side dish can take a meal to the next level, and we admit to having a weakness for anything that has the word “gratin” in the title. Therefore, when we received Executive Chef Steven Greene of The Umstead Hotel and Spa’s recipe for Caramelized Cauliflower Gratin, we knew we had to try it.
The culinary team at the Cary, North Carolina-based hotel, which is home to the acclaimed Herons restaurant, favors local, seasonal ingredients (in fact, they source a variety of vegetables from their dedicated farm located nearby). Warm and comforting, the Caramelized Cauliflower Gratin is an ideal cold-weather dish that features some of our favorite fall fare and flavors. Here’s how to make it:
2 2-lb. heads of cauliflower
1 lb. unsalted butter or 2 cups of olive oil
4 tbsp. Flour
2.5 cups whole milk
1 whole lemon
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
4 tbsp. fresh chives, sliced
4 tbsp. fresh-picked thyme
Nutmeg to taste
Fresh baby kale to taste (seasoned with hazelnut oil and salt), or kale leaves
Salt to taste
• Half-sheet pan
• Resting rack
• Pastry brush
• Ceramic baking dish
• Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
• Place the whole cauliflower heads with the stems partially removed on a sheet pan fitted with a resting rack. Brush with melted butter and season lightly with salt.
• Set a timer for 10 minutes, baste with melted butter when the 10 minute timer finishes. Repeat this process until you total 30 minutes. You should be able to push a small knife through the top of the cauliflower, some ovens may vary.
• While your cauliflower is roasting, place 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Let the butter slightly brown (for flavor), next slowly whisk in your flour, and let cook for about 4 minutes.
• Slowly whisk in your whole milk and let it cook until it begins to thicken.
• Next add ½ cup of parmesan cheese, half of the hazelnuts and slowly cook for another minute.
• Season with the juice of one lemon and zest, also add salt and grated nutmeg to taste.
• Remove the cauliflower from the oven and let cool.
• Slice the cauliflower thin (approximately 1/4-inch pieces) without breaking it apart too much.
• Pour enough parmesan sauce to cover the bottom of your pan.
• Layer your cauliflower with the crispy edges facing out.
• Season each layer with salt and parmesan.
• Finally top the cauliflower with the rest of your sauce and sprinkle the rest of your grated parmesan on top along with your hazelnuts.
• Bake in the oven for another 8-10 minutes; finish with chives, thyme and the fresh dressed kale leaves.
We recommend serving this delicious dish at your next fall gathering; it would pair well with practically any protein, and is sure to please. And the next time you’re traveling through the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area, be sure to check out The Umstead Hotel and Spa and enjoy Chef Steven’s creations!
The Umstead Hotel and Spa // Cary, North Carolina // 919-447-4000
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Image courtesy of Amanda Powers for The Scout Guide.