Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Baked Cheesy Cauliflower with Proscuitto

I don't normally shop at Fresh & Easy, because it's out of the way...but, they had a buy one get one free deal on Breyers Icecream which I could not pass up, in hopes that they had some mint chocolate chip left. Unfortunately, no more Mint Chocolate Chip, but, I found a bunch of veggies and fruits marked down to half off because they were close to their sell-by-date. I snagged two heads of cauliflower for $1.25 each. I also don't ever buy proscuitto because it's too pricey for my blood. But it too was 50% off. Alot of times, what I cook comes about because that's what we're craving for. Othertimes, your meal comes about with whatever you can find on sale. I realized the proscuitto would probably go well with one of my favorite dishes baked cauliflower & cheese. My dad's is the bomb. I'm hoping this version will be a hit with my S.O. and L.O.

My parents would put the cauliflower florets in the pan raw & pour a creamy mixture over it, then top with shredded mozzarella/sharp cheddar from the bag. Less steps, but, it takes longer to bake. Being hungry while cooking, I par boiled my cauliflower florets and then used the the Fast Bake option on a Convection Microwave Oven...Just to crisp up the top cheesy layer...takes about 10-15 minutes vs. the hour + it'd take to bake raw. I wonder if one of those kitchen blow torches would work...hmmmmm?

(Update Dec 17, 2011 - tonight I followed by brother Gary's lead and used a whole package of bacon.  I topped the dish with crumbled up pieces...mmm!  So good!)

1 stick of butter (optional: if using bacon, reserve the bacon grease, so bad, but can't resist!)
1 onion, chopped fine
2 T finely chopped garlic
1/3 cup of chopped celery (optional)
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup flour
2 cups of whole milk 1
t fresh minced rosmary (optional)
1 t fresh minced basil (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 heads of cauliflower, bite sized florets
One 4oz package chopped-up proscuitto (my bro requested more, if you can afford it, put 2-3 packages of proscuitto or add BACON or chunks of chicken or sliced up deli meats, whatever you have)
2 cups shredded parmesian cheese
1/4 cup shredded gouda cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
(or Use whatever you have in the fridge or your favorite cheese.  I often grab a bag of shredded cheese Mexican cheese blend.  And without measuring, I grab huge handfuls, mix it in with the white sauce and layer it ontop of the cauliflower once in the dish, for that crusty cheesy top!)
Stuffing (I tried this today, Dec 17, with some leftover stuffing...because of the amount of bacon I put on top, I barely noticed there was any stuffing...will try to do it again with more stuffing on top...)

side notes:*if you're using a regular oven, preheat your oven now before step 1 to 400 degrees. Hold off 'til after step 3, if you're using a microwave convection oven.
*if you're using block cheese, go ahead and shred it up before you start cooking.
*I love my Kitchenaid food processor attachment that came with the Immersion blender. Great for chopping up the onions, garlic and celery.

1.(This is an added step to my parents original recipe. They would simply make the sauce and pour it over uncooked cauliflower florets and bake it for a longer time. I remember waiting hours for this dish to come out of the oven.)  My update on it is to first Parboil cauliflower florets, drain, put into a buttered up baking pan. I used about 1-2 T of butter to grease up the pan edges. I used a 38x25x4 cm pyrex baking dish, so that I could have one layer of cauliflower. This helps it bake faster and also you get a bigger surface area of the yummy cheese crust!  Now, I have a little munchkin, so I snuck her a bunch of plain cauliflower to tide her over until I finished cooking the dish.
2. Melt remaining butter in large pot on medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery. Stir & Saute until translucent.
3. I like to lower temp to medium low heat, to keep butter from burning. Add a little flour at a time, stirring as you go to make a roux Add Salt & Pepper to taste. I chose not to add too much salt, because the cheese & proscuitto have some saltiness to them already.
4. Go ahead and preheat your microwave convection oven to 400 degrees.
5. Ok, back to the flour...Once flour is incorporated evenly in with the butter, raise the temp up to medium heat, while pouring a little milk at a time, while stirring, making sure to not let the milk burn on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring milk until you have a chowder like consistency. You don't want it to be soupy thin. When you put it in the oven, you want it too be somewhat thick because the liquid in the cauliflower, will mix in with it while baking and thin it out.
6. Ok, now we layer the remaining ingredients on top. First, pour the sauce all over the cauliflower. Use a spatula to wriggle around the cauliflower to get the sauce to get into all those crevices. Then, sprinkle like crazy your cheeses and proscuitto.
7. By now your oven should be preheated. If not, humb & twiddle your thumbs awhile waiting for that *ding* Ok, now place the uncovered dish in the oven and set to 12 minutes.

so, here's the dish ready for the oven.

and 12 minutes later straight from the oven.
Although my S.O. and bro liked it, it's just not their favorite. I have a feeling it's because it's mainly a veggie dish. They'd probably enjoy it more, just as a side dish to a rack of ribs or something that once moo'ed. Well, my little girl liked it and asked for more. It's my favorite too! So I'll have to try making this dish in smaller batches and freezing it for make-ahead meals for my munkin & I. Hope you give this a go and let me know what you think.

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