Happy Thanksgiving! This year I have so much to be thankful for…including the 600 or so of you who seem to be following this blog. I never dreamed that so many would find my ramblings and recipes worth reading each week. THANK YOU for the support!
I heard something once that has stayed with me for years: gratitude consists of being more aware of what you have, than what you don’t. The Lord knows that there are days when I don’t live by those words…but I really try (as you may have noticed in this blog) to count my blessings instead of “keeping score” of my failures. During this time of year, it is so easy to get caught up in the “holiday hustle” and forget to just take the time to be thankful. My wish for each of you is a ten minute time out…no I’m not sending you to the corner(<: I’m just hoping that each of you can take ten minutes between the turkey, the game and the holiday shopping to be thankful for the blessings in your life. I tell you each week how blessed I am. No, I’m not trying to annoy you with my naiveté and idealism…I have to remind myself daily to focus on the positive. I have parents who love me and never give up on me (even when I give up on myself.) I have friends who are generous, loyal and fill my life with laughter. I have a home (not a house…big difference) where I can seek refuge from the stormiest days. I have a job I love and a life full of possibilities. Are there still bad times? Absolutely. Am I stronger and wiser for each adversity? You bet! If you haven’t made your “Thanksgiving” list yet, I hope you start now. If you’re comfortable, leave a comment and share your blessings with the rest of us. There is too much negativity in this world…let’s shine a little light!
Ok..now that my “Pollyanna” moment is out of the way…let’s move on to the recipe! I put a lot of thought into what recipe I wanted to share. I considered pumpkin pie, stuffing, turkey but they all seemed so overdone. Instead, I decided to give you a recipe that has several versatile parts. At the heart of it is a béchamel sauce. Béchamel is one of the French “mother” sauces (we commonly refer to it as white sauce) and serves as the base for many dishes. I am giving you the Recipe for Cauliflower Au Gratin but, if you hate cauliflower, you can easily convert the sauce for use over potatoes or with your favorite pasta. Because this is a “special occasion” recipe, I’m using Swiss Gruyere cheese – you can substitute with other (i.e. less expensive) cheeses. I encourage you to experiment with any kind of cheese that your family really likes. This recipe also calls for Panko. I like the texture of a bit better than traditional bread crumbs but the dish will be just as delicious if you substitute.
Cauliflower Au Gratin
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk or half-and-half,; scalded
- 1/4 teaspoon salt; (for scalded milk)
- 1 small bay leaf,; broken in two
- Salt and fresh ground white pepper
- 1 pinch nutmeg,; freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons salt; (for pre-cooking cauliflower)
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar; (for pre-cooking cauliflower)
- 1 head cauliflower; (about 11/2 pounds)
- 2 cups bechamel sauce
- 1 cup Swiss Gruyere cheese,; (about 3 oz) finely grated
- Salt and fresh ground white pepper
Basil Crumb Topping
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or addition Gruyere,; (about 1 oz) finely grated
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or dried bread crumb
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil or flat-leaf (Italian) parsley,; chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
To make Béchamel: In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter starts to foam, add flour and mix using a wooden spoon to create a smooth, loose paste. (It is much like making gravy.) Cook, stirring constantly, allowing butter and flour to froth together until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand.
Meanwhile, combine milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan, scald milk (heating it until just below boiling point). Return saucepan with roux at medium-low heat. Add half of the hot milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to thoroughly blend and prevent lumps, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When a boil is reached and sauce is smooth, add the remaining milk and bay leaf, reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, about 10 to 12 minutes. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste, and set aside until ready to use. Do not skip the nutmeg…it is what gives the sauce its distinctive flavor. (Makes about 2 cups.)
To make Gratin: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring 3 quarts of water to a rapid boil with 2 tablespoons of salt and vinegar. (The acid in vinegar helps keep cauliflower white.) Cut cauliflower into 1 1/2-inch wide florets. Boil florets until just tender, about 4 to 5 minutes, drain well without rinsing, pat dry, and season with salt to taste.
Arrange the cauliflower, florets-side up, in a buttered, medium (about 8-cup) baking dish just large enough to hold cauliflower in a single layer. If the béchamel sauce is cold, bring it to a simmer on the stove while whisking. Gradually stir Gruyere cheese into the hot béchamel and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. In a small bowl, combine the parmesan, bread crumbs and basil, and mix with olive oil, to coat evenly. Spoon béchamel over the cauliflower and sprinkle everything, evenly, with crumb topping.
Bake in center of oven until gratin is bubbling and lightly browned on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, or at room temperature.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” –William A. Ward