Elegant Cauliflower Gratin -- Fast, satisying, meatless, and low carb!

We love cauliflower all the time, but it is especially wonderful now during these cold winter months, when it is plentiful, so satisfying, and a true "comfort food." It's versatile as well -- we've roasted it, sautéed it, made delicious soups from it (where it starred and also played a supporting role!). 

This week, we created a sumptuous gratin ... lots of savory cheese, baked and topped off in the broiler for a few minutes to brown the crust. We used gruyere, but for an extra bite you can add grated or shaved parmigiano reggiano to the top before broiling. For extra crunch, add a 1/3 cup of Panko breadcrumbs and a dot or two of butter. Special and spectacular on your dinner table, or as a main meatless dish, accompanied by a salad.  Best of all, it's a thoroughly user-friendly recipe: You can make this gratin in less than a 1/2 hour, prepare it in advance and broil it just before eating,

One large head cauliflower, trimmed of green leaves and broken into large florets
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock)
1/3 c. butter (approx. 5 tbsp.)
1/3 c. flour
1/8 tsp. high-quality paprika
Salt (kosher) and pepper (freshly ground) to taste
1/2 c. - 1 c. shredded high-quality gruyere or white cheddar
Optional : 1/3 c.  parmigiano reggiano1/3 c. Panko breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp. butter cut in dots

Preheat oven to 375F

1. In a large saucepan, boil cauliflower florets in 2 c. salted water for 3-5 minutes, until firm but not soft. Drain and when dry, place in a butered oven-proof open casserole dish.
 2. In a saucepan, melt butter, add flour and stir over low to medium heat until a roux is formed. Slowly add cream and stock until thick and bubbly, sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Add gruyere or cheddar and stir well until melted. (Reserve 1/4 c. cheese for topping.)

 3. Pour over cauliflower.

 4. Sprinkle with more paprika, and parmigiano reggiano if desired. Sprinkle reserved gruyere or cheddar. Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes or until golden.

5. Sprinkle with Panko breadcrumbs if desired and broil on high for 3 minutes until browned and bubbly.

6. Serve with an icy glass of white wine and salad for a satisfying meatless dinner, or as an elegant side with roast chicken or grilled steak.

Note: This recipe easily serves four as a side dish. Your guests and family will go back for seconds, so if you want to double the recipe, be sure to use a casserole dish large enough to spread out the cauliflower in a single layer so that most of the pieces get browned in the broiler. We like the crispy topping best.

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