Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin

The final months of 2013 have been flying by.  I'm pretty sure September didn't even exist this year.  10 days till Christmas??  When the hell did this happen?  Thankfully, my better half did most of my shopping for me, so I don't have to worry about the push to find gifts this year.  Do you have any kitchen gadetry on your list?  I never remove a gift certificate from D'artagnan or tasty pig parts from Nueske's from my list.  If Santa thinks I've been good this year I hope to get one of these high-end thermometers.  It's also time to think about what kind of beast to roast this holiday season. 

Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  I hope you've grown to appreciate these yummy veggies.  Healthy for you and quite inexpensive.  They are tasty simply roasted in the oven with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  This recipe however, steps it up.  This is a decadent side dish, perhaps for your holiday meal.  Vegetables swimming in bacon, butter, and cheese?  Okay. 

If you've never prepped Brussels sprouts, it's easy.  Trim off the end with a paring knife, then quarter them lengthwise.  The outer couple leaves will come off, and that's great- you don't want those. 

Making your own fresh bread crumbs is very worth the effort.  Take a day or two old baguette, cut into pieces that will fit in your food pro and process until you have crumbs.  So much better than buying them in a can. 

What else do you need to make this lovely dish?  Some quality cheese.  Real deal parmigiano reggiano and Gruyere.  The latter is expensive, but it's worth the splurge.  You'll have some leftover to make this classic soup this winter.     

If you don't have a strong love affair with onion like I do, you can omit that in this recipe- just make a roux without them. 

After you saute the pancetta, if there's not enough fat reserved, borrow some from your little tub of saved bacon fat in the fridge.  If you don't have one of those, make some damn bacon and save the fat in a little tub and place it in the fridge. 

More Brussels sprouts.  A very similar dish with just cauliflower. 

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin
4-6 servings as side

2 oz pancetta, diced
3/4 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed into florets
3/4 lb brussels sprout, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
3 TB unsalted butter
1 TB pancetta or bacon fat
1 small onion, diced
3 TB AP flour
2 C hot milk
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
1/4 ts fresh nutmeg
3/4 C Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1/2 C parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
1/4 C bread crumbs, freshly made from 1-2 day old baguette

Fire up the oven to three hundred and seventy five degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small skillet, render the fat from the pancetta and cook until crisp, stirring often.  Set aside and reserve 1 TB of the fat.  

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  (That's cold water with a full tray of ice cubes)

Warm the milk and garlic cloves in a small saucepan over low heat. 

Boil the cauliflower florets in lightly salted water for 4-5 minutes, until they are tender yet still firm.  Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon to the ice bath.

Boil the Brussels sprouts for about 3 minutes, until tender yet firm.  Quickly end the cooking process by placing them into the ice bath.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and bacon fat over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes, until the flour is cooked a bit and darkened to a caramel color.

Remove the garlic cloves from the milk and slowly add to the roux, whisking as you go.  Cook for a couple minutes while whisking until you have a slightly thickened sauce. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere.  Season with the nutmeg, a touch of freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt. 

Pour 1/3 of the sauce into a gratin dish.  Drain the vegetables well and spread them evenly in the dish.  Pour the rest of the sauce over.  Layer the breadcrumbs.  Cover with the parmigiano reggiano.  Lastly, top with the bacon bits (pancetta). 

Bake for 30 minutes uncovered, until nicely golden brown and smelling all delicious. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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