Baked Autumn Cauliflower "Au Gratin"
I've been soaking up every bit of autumn weather and goodness that we've had so far this year in the city, but now it's starting to get cold- really, really damn cold.
My mother always jokes that my body runs like a thermostat on high. I'm miserable in the summer humidity and I can't keep a hat on my head in the winter for more than 5 minutes before I rip it off because I'm overheating.
But this year, things are a bit different. The autoimmune/thyroid issues I'm going through right now has suddenly tipped my internal thermometer in the other direction. I'm turning into my father and wearing two layers of socks because my toes are freezing, and I impulsively bought a pair of nice gloves for the first time ever the other day because my hands have turned into frozen icicles.
Oh, and this weekend I made plans to go to Montreal for a few days as my first real vacation in nearly 2 years now (PS: would love any and all suggestions on things to see and do from you guys if you have any!). Then I realized I chose to go to freakin' Canada in December when I'm already shivering in 50ºF weather... I'm really smart, I know. Any advice on not becoming a snowman up there?
Anyway, back to my main point, all I've been craving are warm and cozy dishes. This recipe is another one I came up with for my FamiLee's Thanksgiving meal this year, and hopefully one you might add to your menu. I was perusing the Union Square Farmers Market and found this gorgeous and giant Cheddar Cauliflower.
The dish evolved naturally from there, as I wanted to make something hot and casserole-like using all autumn produce. French béchamel sauce is known for its indulgent, creamy texture and usually has heavy cream, butter, flour, and cheese in it. I wanted to use the rice-flour I had on hand, my homemade almond milk, local raw milk cheddar I got from the market, and local grass-fed butter. Man, that browned butter with an infusion of sage makes all the difference.
It is definitely an health upgrade from the traditional sauce but it is still decadent and holiday-appropriate. Also, instead of using the usual potatoes found in au gratin dishes, I used sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) instead and they worked wonderfully. This dish was good enough that my friend was even sneaking extra bites from the cold portion I was sending home with her!
This casserole is a perfect gluten-free dish to add to your Thanksgiving dinner menu, and sneaks in quite a lot of veggies. It's also quite easy to make, even though I think it looks fancy and homemade- ideal for a potluck dish to bring to a Friendsgiving dinner.
Baked Autumn Cauliflower "Au Gratin"
*makes a standard 9x13 Casserole dish
1 large head of Cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 dozen large Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 dozen Sunchokes, peeled and cubed
1 or 2 Corn, shucked (or 3/4 can, rinsed/drained)
3 small Cipollini Onions, quartered
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Almond Meal
For Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Almond Milk
3 tbsp Rice Flour (or regular)
2 tbsp grass-fed Butter
2 Sage leaves + more for garnish
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 cup raw milk White Cheddar, shredded
*to make things vegan, use cashew cheese and coconut oil to replace butter and cheddar
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF and line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, toss cauliflower florets in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread florets on baking sheet in a single layer, and roast until lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and stir until it begins to brown. Toss 2 sage leaves in butter and let cook for about 30 seconds. Remove sage leaves, and then mix in rice flour. Add almond milk, nutmeg, cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until completely melted and béchamel sauce begins to thicken.
3. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
4. Add roasted cauliflower florets to the béchamel sauce, toss to combine, and transfer mixture into a large casserole/baking dish. Sprinkle almond meal on top as breadcrumbs, and pop baking dish into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden-brown on top- optional, you can turn on the broiler for 3-5 minutes at the end to get a crunchier "breadcrumb" topping.