I honestly don't think there's anything better than vegetables smothered in béchamel sauce and cheese. And this dish is absolute proof.
It's also the only way I got my son to eat cauliflower when he was little.
- 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups hot milk (I warm it in the microwave, but you can also warm it in a saucepan on the stove over low heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (or panko)
Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Set a colander in the sink and drain the cauliflower.
After you cook the cauliflower, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over very low heat.
Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. If you find you have better luck incorporating the flour into the butter with a whisk, then use a whisk.
Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil.
Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. It will thicken quickly, so don't step away!
Remove the saucepan from the stove and add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere (the rest will go on top of the gratin later), and the Parmesan.
Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish.
Place the drained cauliflower on top and then pour the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.