Friday, March 18, 2011

Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin

Brussels sprouts and cauliflower - possibly my two favorite vegetables united as one in this creamy, crispy baking dish of goodness. And believe it or not, it's fairly light!

Winter vegetables are my favorite, hands down. I love butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. I have lots of delicious ways to prepare them. But by this time of the year, I'm ready for something different. I've been really trying to eat seasonally, but this is a pretty lean season (nothing local left except moldy potatoes) and the warm weather has me craving asparagus, snap peas and salads, which are not even close to ready. I even caved and purchased a few imported veggies - there are vine-ripened tomatoes from Maine in my refrigerator right now (I shudder at the thought of the fossil fuels they need to heat those greenhouses).

The only way to win here - to tide myself over until the spring harvest actually begins - is to use this time to say goodbye to my winter favorites. Goodbye, Brussels sprouts, with your mustardy kick. Goodbye, cauliflower, with your firm tenderness. Goodbye, creamy, cheesy baked dishes. Your time is nearly at an end. But don't worry - come October I'll once again be craving your goodness.

Crispy-Topped Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin
From Cooking Light, March 2011.

4 c cauliflower florets
4 c Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c 1% milk (I generally only have skim on hand, but I bought a special carton of 1% for this - I don't think you can make a proper bechemel sauce with skim milk)
2/3 c half-and-half (although, since there is half-and-half here, perhaps it could make up for using skim milk - if you try it, let me know!)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
4 slices bacon, chopped (since we're going meatless, we left this out)
2 c sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c grated Parmesan
1/4 c panko

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Parcook the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for ~ 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine flour, milk, half-and-half, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk well.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook 3 minutes, until it begins to brown (we skipped the bacon, so we melted 1 1/2 tbsp butter in the skillet instead). Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the milk mixture, bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in vegetables.

Spoon the mixture into an 11x7 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil coated in cooking spray. Bake at 375° F for 20 minutes, until bubbly (I'd suggest putting a baking sheet under your dish in case it bubbles over). Remove from oven and remove foil.

Preheat broiler to high. Combine cheese and panko and sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 5" from heat for 4 minutes until browned. (My gratin was positioned the right distance from the heat and it was about to burn after 2 minutes, so you might want to keep it a bit further from the heat or take it out sooner - either way, keep an eye on it. Parmesan cheese is awesome, but burnt Parmesan is not.) Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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