I was recently walking in the California Anza Borrego Desert, when I came across a road that was named Frying Pan Road. I am not usually inspired by road signs but this one ignited a fire in me. What should I cook next, another mouth-watering dessert? No, it’s time to make a mouth-watering side dish like Cauliflower Gratin.
Comfort food at its best! Tender morsels of cauliflower, draped in a cheesy, buttery sauce with a hint of bacon and shallots. Cauliflower Gratin is typically a French recipe made with gruyère cheese, but you could also use other cheeses, such as a mixture of Mozzarella, Provolone and Parmesan.
To make my dish more flavorful, I added shallots and diced bacon pieces. Some recipes call for using breadcrumbs, but other chefs like Jacques Pepin don’t use them in their Cauliflower Gratin recipes. Like Pepin, (dare I compare myself with him?) I’ve left out the breadcrumbs since I felt that the diced bacon pieces already give a bit of crunch to the dish.
Before I give you my recipe for Cauliflower Gratin, I would like to tell you about the 15 Big-horned sheep that I saw grazing on a hillside overlooking one of the desert canyons. There is no grass for them to eat in the desert so I saw them knock over a barrel cactus with their horns and eat the insides of the cactus. Now that’s being adaptable – no frying pan required!
Cauliflower Gratin with Bacon and Shallots
Cauliflower flavoured with bacon and shallots and topped with a cheesy white sauce.
¾ cups gruyère cheese (or mixture of other white cheeses, such as mozzarella, provolone, etc)
Salt/pepper to taste
½ cup additional gruyere cheese for the topping
Sprinkle of parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the cauliflower into smaller florets, and steam them over a large pot of boiling water fitted with a steamer basket for 5-7 minutes until they are just tender. Place the cauliflower pieces in a shallow baking dish, with the ‘heads’ facing upwards.
Soften the diced shallots in a little butter on the stovetop; microwave the bacon slices on high for several minutes until crisp (but not over-cooked), or alternatively fry the bacon on the stovetop. Dry the bacon pieces on a paper towel and then ‘blitz’ in a food processor for 30 seconds until the bacon is finely diced; set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, stir in the flour until it forms a thick paste. Over medium heat, gradually whisk in the milk until the mixture thickens. Add the ¾ cup gruyère cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the sauce on top of the cauliflower pieces, top with ½ cup of additional gruyère cheese and then sprinkle with a handful of parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese topping turns a golden brown.
Several years ago, I did a post on Profiteroleswhich has turned out to be my most popular post. I guess I’m not the only person who loves these delicate cream puffs, topped with a lovely chocolate sauce. Thousands of people seem to be surfing the net, searching for a good Profiterole recipe.
Because I’ve gotten quite a lot of feedback and questions regarding my recipe, I thought I’d share them with you and offer some ‘tips and traps.’ The feedback from my beloved readers has ranged from comments such as “my profiteroles turned out so hard I could have bounced them off the wall” to a an admission that one reader had used tequilainstead of vanilla flavoring for the custard cream. I would have liked to taste that one!
Here is the profiterole photo from my original post of July 2013:
Here are some of the comments I’ve received, plus my suggestions for overcoming any problems (see below for the original printable recipe):
” The dough for my choux pastry was too runny, like pancake mix- they went ‘splat’ when I spooned them onto the baking tray!”
Try using less eggs for the choux pastry dough. The recipe calls for 3-4 large eggs. Start by beating in one egg at a time and then stopand re-evaluate after beating in the third egg. If the dough is smooth and elastic and falls easily off of your spoon or spatula, then you don’t need to add the fourth egg. If your dough is still a bit stiff, then add another 1/2 egg or 1 full egg. It all depends on the size of your eggs; if you add four jumbo eggs at once, then your dough will probably turn out too runny, like pancake mix. The trick is to stop and re-evaluate after adding the first three eggs.
The choux pastry dough should be smooth and elastic, not runny.
S- not runny.
” My puff balls weren’t crisp on the outside when I took them out of the oven and then deflated quickly.”
The trick to getting crisp puff balls is to first bake them in the oven at a hightemperature of 425 F for the first 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 F for the remaining 10-15 minutes. I use an oven thermometer to ensure my oven has reached 425 F before putting the puff balls in the oven. If it looks like your buns are browning to fast, then reduce the oven temperature sooner. If using a convection oven (fan-forced), then reduce your oven temperatures by 20 degrees (for 425 F reduce your temperature to 405 F, etc.).
If you follow this method of first baking at a high temperature, then your profiterole buns should not deflate soon after removing them from the oven. Store in an air-tight container if not serving right away.
The puff balls should be crisp on the outside when finished baking
” My custard cream filling was too thick, like a paste.”
Try using less flour for the custard cream. The recipe calls for adding 1/3 cup flour to 3 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar, so try reducing the amount to say 1/4 cup flour. Also, you should gradually add small amounts of the egg/flour/sugar mixture to the milk/cream so that it gradually thickens. The custard should be able to still pour easily after it’s cooked, but not be too runny.
The custard should still be able to pour easily; if too thick, add a bit more milk or cream.
“My chocolate sauce seized up – became hard and grainy, instead of smooth.”
If your chocolate gets too hot, it may seize up and get hard. Make sure you heat the chocolate, butter and cream together over low heat, preferably placing the ingredients in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water.
“My profiteroles turned out hard as rocks- I could have bounced them off the wall!”
The first time I made profiteroles, they were also as hard as rocks, but the second time I made them, they came out perfect. Try making them again!
“My custard cream tasted too much like eggs!”
Sorry, nothing I can do about that. Since the custard is made of egg yolks, they are bound to taste like eggs! (But I guess you could try adding more vanilla flavoring to mask the egg taste).
Here is my original recipe for Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce and Custard Cream, first published July 2013. I hope you continue to enjoy them!
Soft pastry puffs filled with custard cream and slathered with a rich chocolate sauce
!For the Choux Pastry
250 ml (1 cup) water
⅓ cup (6 tbsp.) butter, cubed
150 g (1 cup) plain flour, sifted
2 tsp sugar
3 – 4 large eggs
For the Custard Cream Filling
250 ml (1 cup) milk
175 ml (3/4 cup) heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla favoring
3 egg yolks
75 g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
50 g (1/3 cup) flour
For the Chocolate Sauce
113 g (3/4 cup) dark baking chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
65 ml (1/4 cup) thickened cream
2 tbs. sugar
For the Choux Pastry
Pre-heat oven to 425 F. (220 C.)
Combine water and butter in a saucepan and bring just to the boil.
Remove pan from the heat. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. In one go, add these dry ingredients to the water/butter mixture.
Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough and falls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Beginning with three eggs, beat in one egg at a time, stirring in each egg until the dough mixture is smooth and the egg is fully incorporated. After the third egg, the dough should be elastic and fall easily away from your spoon or spatula. If the dough is still a bit stiff, then add another ½ egg or another full egg until the dough reaches the right consistency; the dough should not be ‘runny’ like pancake batter but smooth and elastic.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Using a piping bag with a large tipped nozzle, pipe balls of dough onto the tray (spaced at least 2 inches apart), using about 2 tbsp. of dough for each ball. Pipe in concentric circles starting from the center and working outwards.
Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 F (220 C), then lower the temperature to 375 F. (190 C.) for the remaining 10-15 minutes. The pastry balls will be done when they puff up and become golden. Each ball should feel light and airy.
Turn off oven and remove the tray from the oven; slit a small hole in the base of each pastry ball to release any steam. Return the tray to the oven for another few minutes to dry out the insides of the pastry puffs.
For the Custard Cream Filling
Warm the milk, cream and vanilla flavouring together over medium heat- do not boil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks for at least 30 seconds until the mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow in color, then add the flour.
Over medium heat, gradually whisk in the egg/sugar mixture to the milk/cream mixture. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens- if the custard is so thick that it will not pour easily, then add a little more milk or cream. Place in the fridge until chilled; the custard will continue to thicken some as it chills.
To fill each puff ball with custard, lift open the top of each pastry ball and fill with 1 -2 tbsp. of custard.
For the Chocolate Sauce
Over low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter. Mix in the cream and sugar and stir until the sauce is thick and smooth.
To serve, place one or two pastries on a plate and cover with chocolate sauce.
Jack Daniels can come anytime to my house for dinner, especially when he makes an appearance in my homemade barbeque sauce.
I’ve often thought that store-bought barbeque sauces were a bit too sweet and ‘sticky’, so I thought I’d experiment with making my own. Some recipes for barbeque sauce use molasses and others use brown sugar: I tried both and thought that the molasses works the best. I’m not normally a fan of whiskey, but adding a splash of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Liqueur gave my sauce a nice down-home southern taste. The Hickory Smoke flavoring is optional in the recipe, but I’d recommend buying it if you want that nice smoky hickory taste. (I bought mine online at The Spice House).
This pulled-pork casserole recipe is versatile since you could use it as filling for PulledPork Sliders or even as filling for Pork Tacos. I served my casserole in several small cast iron skillets: I think Jack Daniels would have been pleased!
Pulled Pork Casserole with Barbeque Whiskey Sauce
A taste of southern whiskey in this Barbeque sauce makes this a winner!
Pre-heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Place the pork shoulder, onion, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick and salt in a large pot or Dutch oven; add enough water to cover the pork, cover and let simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat falls off the bone.
While the pork is cooking, make the Barbeque sauce. Combine all ingredients; continually taste the sauce as you add the ingredients and adjust the seasoning, as required. (For instance, I like my sauce a bit spicy, so I added more of the ground Chipotle pepper).
Remove the meat from the pot and let cool. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside.
Using a fork, shred the pork. Place the shredded pork, beans and ½ cup of the strained cooking liquid into a casserole dish and add enough of the Barbeque sauce to taste (about ½ - 1 cup, depending on the amount of the pork).
Slice the potato into thin slices; cook in boiling salted water for several minutes until the slices start to soften. Add 4-5 potato slices on top of ingredients in the casserole dish, brush with a little melted butter and bake for about 15 minutes until the potato slices start to brown. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top and serve.