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.
- 1 cauliflower head (approximately 1 lb or 500 g)
- 3 tbsp shallots, finely diced
- 2 slices of bacon, cooked and finely diced
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 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.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/
On a recent trip to Borrego Springs in the California desert, I was inspired to try some rustic Southwestern cooking. ‘Southwest cuisine’ is a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Native American food and is popular in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Utah. It is similar to Mexican cuisine and is known for its use of spices, such as chile peppers.
Although this recipe is called ‘Corn Pudding’ it is not a sweet dish. Creamed corn is blended with cream, eggs, cheese and green chiles to form a firm pudding. This dish pairs beautifully with chilli con carne or any other spicy meat dish.
Some corn pudding recipes call for white flour, but I think that yellow cornmeal gives a richer texture. I’ve used one can of creamed corn for my recipe, but you can use a can of ordinary corn or fresh corn, if desired.
Here are some photos from my recent trip to Borrego Springs, located in the Anza Borrego desert in California. The brilliant sunrises and sunsets, the red mountains jutting up from the desert floor, the feeling of solitude within the vast expanse of the desert, all gave me inspiration to try conjuring up some new Southwest recipes.
Southwest Corn Pudding
A creamy corn pudding beautifully paired with chili or any spicy meat dish
- ¾ cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn or regular corn
- ½ cup chopped green onions (spring onions)
- ½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced
- 1 roasted green or red chile, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
- Lightly brush the inside of a Dutch oven or casserole dish with melted butter or vegetable oil.
- Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl.
- In order to roast the green or red chile pepper, slice it in half and remove the seeds. Rub the skin with olive oil and bake in oven for 10 – 15 minutes until the skin blisters. Remove from oven and let cool; peel the skin off and dice into small pieces.
- In a separate bowl, combine the corn, green onions, roasted red bell pepper, diced chile and cheeses. Stir in the dry ingredients, then add the melted butter, cream and eggs and mix well.
- Spoon the mixture into the Dutch oven or casserole dish, cover and bake for around 30 minutes. Remove the cover from the dish and let bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture firms and turns golden on top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- You can use a can of ordinary corn instead of creamed corn, if desired.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/