Herbed Cauliflower & Cheese Casserole - A Hot Dish for a Cold House
I didn't want to leave you hanging too long, dear readers. Last week I posted a cheeseless recipe. I'm sorry. This was only because I needed a breather, so I could fit more cheese in my belly after an extremely full five days of tasting, drinking, having fun, and possibly even overeating at the Good Food Awards and The Fanciness. Since the recipe was a soup and it's winter, I thought if you were also feeling full, you might be able to forgive the dairy-slight for the week. Basically I pushed my food needs on you. I may or may not do it again.
To assuage any fears you may have that I'm turning the wrong corner, however, here is a cheesed up recipe for you. A gouda and cauliflower casserole, but with a little mint and parsley for modernity's sake. Most importantly, it's topped with cheese. Also very important- it's heavy, rich, and it'll keep you warm in winter. If you're getting PG&E bills like I am because you live in a big, lofty, single-paned windowed house and some areas of it only get warm with an electric space heater, this is a very, very good thing. PG&E, this dish is because of you. But it's not for you- you can't have any.
Cauliflower Cheese Casserole
With family in Minnesota and a grandmother who was more comfortable with a can of cream-of-mushroom soup than she was with filling a cookie jar, I grew up acutely familiar with the casserole, otherwise known as the “hot dish.” Despite the flack the can of cream-of can of soup gets, I rarely minded being served the baked savory dishes. They were rich, creamy, normally covered in cheese, and, quite frankly, a welcome respite from all the vegetables normally served.
Although I wouldn’t turn down a rich hot dish because it had a can of soup in it, I now like to make the base for my casserole from scratch. I start with a béchamel like I’m making mac n’ cheese and liven it up with fresh herbs, citrus, and a vegetable or two. Because it has noodles, this casserole is like a mac n’ cheese, but a little less rich, and the acid in the lemon juice cuts through the creamy béchamel. Serve with a salad on the side.
3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter 1 clove garlic, chopped 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 cups cauliflower florets 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3 cups whole milk ½ onion, finely chopped 2 tablespoons mint, chopped 1/3 cup parsley, chopped zest of one lemon 7 ounces (1 ¾ cups) Gouda, shredded ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 6 ounces dry penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter. Add garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of salt and stir to combine. Place cauliflower florets on a sheet pan and top with butter mixture. Gently mix to evenly coat cauliflower. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Grease casserole dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Set aside.
While cauliflower is roasting, heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and flour. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring the whole time, and being careful to get around the edges of the pan. Add ¼ cup milk and whisk thoroughly so there are no lumps. Repeat with remaining milk, adding ¼ cup at a time. Whisking constantly, increase heat to medium, and bring to a low boil. Add onion, then lower heat to simmer. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the mint, parsley, lemon zest and 5 ounces (1 ¼ cup) shredded Gouda and mix until the cheese is melted. Add the pepper flakes and the pasta and stir.
Remove cauliflower from oven and place in prepared casserole dish in even layer. Pour pasta mixture over cauliflower and mix gently. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce starts to firm and the top is golden brown and crusty. Remove from oven and wait to let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
What's your favorite cheesy casserole?