This post finishes the series on what we had for Easter dinner last Sunday. I’ve saved the best for last.
If you google “what does cauliflower taste like” you have a quick descent into a tar pit. There are plenty of discussions, not about what it tastes like or why, but what to do about the flavor. How can you make it taste like mashed potatoes? What cheese should you add? Some say there is no taste to cauliflower at all. Some say it stinks, like the cabbage it is descended from
I find cauliflower to be distinctive, not unappealing, but certainly subject to flavor enhancement through the addition of dairy. [Which could be said for just about anything!]
Potato gratins are one of the premier sins on the planet. They are not healthy. There are addictive. They are relished. And sometimes, sometimes, they can be just a little over the top. Are you eating potato or cheese? If you have had a heavy hand in the kitchen preparing a gratin, there may be a tad more cheese than you intended.
Or that the recipe call for. Is there really a difference between a half cup and whole cup? Actually, yes. But once that cheese has begun to melt, there is no retreat.
Australian guru Curtis Stone has an excellent solution. Use lots of finely diced [and then blended and sieved] cauliflower to cook with potatoes. I find cauliflower to have mild, distinctive flavor and you still sense it here but it’s a refinement and a complement to the cheese in the gratin.
To be honest, Suzen did not use Camembert — although this recipe calls for a modest 4 ounces. Instead we had some excellent goat cheese and made the substitution. This is part of the recipe where you, too, have room to experiment. Actually, I find the tastes of cauliflower and goat cheese both oddly similar. I taste them somewhere in the back of my mouth, surely with amplification from the scents that have passed up my nose. These are distinctive, complex flavors, quite unlike your simple “sweet” or “salt” tastes. Together, goat cheese in modest amounts and cauliflower in abundance yield a gratin that is unmistakably potato and wondrously, smoothly complex.
Leftovers, if you should have some, are equally wonderful.
Curtis suggests this gratin to pair with grilled pork chops, an excellent idea. We had the gratin with a slow roasted shoulder of lamb. The gratin is made to side up to meat muscular in body and flavor.
A great meal is often made from creating similarities or creating contrasts. This warm gratin can still be served on a summer night, nestled next to a steak right off the barbeque. Or matched with salmon that has been cooked and chilled.
One final note. There is liquid here, a combination of milk and heavy cream. Follow the recipe’s instructions and use just enough. We had well over half left over and wisely decided not to drown our potatoes. Yes, dairy is good and, yes, there can be too much dairy.
Potato, Cauliflower and Camembert Gratin
Yield: serves 8
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more the baking dish
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 large sprigs of thyme
- 2 cups finely chopped cauliflower
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 ounces Camembert cheese with rind, cut into large pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ¾ pounds baking potatoes [russets], peeled and sliced into ⅛-inch thick slices
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish.
To make the gratin: Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender but have not taken on any color. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring often, or until softened. Add the cream and milk and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese and stir until it melts, then remove from the heat and discard the thyme stems.
Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender; return to the pot. Season generously to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir the potato slices into the hot cream mixture to coat. Spoon 1 cup of the cream mixture into the baking dish. Spread the potatoes and the remaining cream mixture evenly in the dish. Cover with aluminum foil and put on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a knife can be inserted easily into the potatoes. Uncover the dish, raise the oven temperature to 400°F, and continue baking for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.
Source: What’s for Dinner by Curtis Stone
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Lens, F/5.6, 1/40th second, ISO-2000
On a morning when I don’t have to rush off to work or a meeting, when I have some time, and when I have memories of childhood breakfasts, I open the refrigerator and begin.
There is nothing complicated here: bacon, potatoes and onions. Plus more if you want:
- Hot sauces in any of the varieties
- Worcester sauce [distinctly different than the typical “hot” sauce]
- Cheese at the end
I mention these other things only because you can add them, but I rarely do. I prefer the “pure” composition of just bacon, potatoes and onion. I do admit, with leftovers the next day, a dash of Worcester or hot sauce can provide some flavor revival.
This recipe is geared to the size of your cast iron pan. Cast iron. Not non-stick. This is a complete breakfast, needed a cap off of deep, dark coffee.
Brian’s Morning Hash
Yield: 4-6 servings
- Bacon, enough strips to layer your cast iron pan
- Potatoes, enough so when diced to form a layer 1” deep in the cast iron pan
- White onions, enough when diced so that you have a 2-to-1 ratio of potatoes to onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
Line the bottom of your cast iron pan with one layer of bacon. Cook on medium heat until the bacon is well cooked but not crispy. Remove the bacon. Leave the grease.
While the bacon is cooking, wash but do not peel the potatoes. Dice the potatoes in blocks about ¼-inch in size. Uniform size is prettier [my wife complains otherwise] but not necessary [I ignore her; I hope she does not read this].
Dice the onions at the same time. I prefer about twice the potatoes to onions in terms of volume. I often over-onion and the downside is not having that real “potato” feel that I treasure this dish for. The leftovers are better when the ratio is kept to about 2-to-1.
Add the potatoes and cook until barely tender. Stir occasionally. This can be 15-30 minutes depending on how high your heat is and how finely you have diced the potatoes. If you need to cook longer and pan begins to dry out, add some olive oil or butter.
When the potatoes are just tender, add the onions and continue to cook until the onions are no longer raw. Stir occasionally.
Break up the bacon into pieces and add to the pan to rewarm. Serve hot and aromatic.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for 1/100th second at ISO-3200