What do Pinterest feeds, restaurant menus, and Trader Joe’s have in common? They’re all chock-full of cauliflower. The cold-weather vegetable has taken the food world by storm, appearing in roasted form on small plates and as a carb-light replacement in everything from mashed potatoes and pizza crust to mac and cheese and cake. It may seem odd that a plant resembling pallid broccoli has become so popular, but aside from being tasty, it’s a nutritional powerhouse, too. High in fiber and B vitamins yet low in calories, cauliflower boasts a top-20 ranking on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index rating scale. One cup of chopped raw cauliflower contains two grams protein and 77 percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C (plus decent amounts of vitamin K and folate). That goodness doesn’t come easy—growing cauliflower can be laborious. The cruciferous crop is extremely temperamental and requires consistent temperatures around 60°F, soil rich with organic matter, and at least six hours of full sun to mature properly. While it might not be the best choice for your late-season garden, worry not: Cauliflower is abundant (and inexpensive) at the supermarket.
When shopping for cauliflower, seek heads with compact florets free of brown spots and bright green leaves that are firmly attached. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to five days. Deftly versatile, cauliflower may be blended into creamy soups, pickled for a mouth-puckering snack, or sliced into “steaks” as a hearty vegetarian entrée. Our favorite preparation, however, is a bit more indulgent. Meet cauliflower cheese, a traditional English dish often served with roasted meat and potatoes. Think potatoes gratin using cauliflower as a stand-in starch, sharp cheddar, and a healthy dose of mustard. A cozy winter dish if ever there was one.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3½ tablespoons salted butter, plus more for greasing dish
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- Pinch nutmeg
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar (try Grafton Village Cheese 2-Year Aged Cheddar), grated and divided
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- Heat oven to 450°F. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat. Trim cauliflower and break into small florets.
- When water boils, add cauliflower and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and set aside. Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk in flour to create roux and cook, stirring constantly to avoid lumps, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Add milk, whisking continuously, until sauce thickens, boils, and becomes smooth. Simmer sauce another 2 minutes. Add
- mustard, nutmeg, and three quarters of the grated cheese.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook 1 additional minute, stirring well.
- Spread cauliflower into prepared baking dish. Pour cheese sauce evenly on top of cauliflower.
- Mix remaining cheese with breadcrumbs and sprinkle over top.
- Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
- Serve immediately.