Cauliflower and Leek Au Gratin
We have been participating in a local Food Co Op and have enjoyed a basket full of fresh vegetables and fruit each week. The basket is always pre-ordered and the specifics of the content is unknown until Monday night before a Tuesday pick-up. The result? Each basket is like a miniature surprise full of yummy food that I may or may not be familiar with cooking. The surprise this week is leeks. I am partially convinced that these are green onions on steroids but I'm game to try some new recipes. The only dishes that I've ever heard of with leeks were soups and I am determined to start my adventure with something different. I've landed on an adaptation of leek and potato au gratin. I don't have potatos but I do have cauliflower....so let's try this.
Au gratin refers to a dish that has been sprinkled with bread crumbs and cheese then browned. It is common in many recipes to leave off the bread crumbs (as we will do here) but it is an optional add in when you sprinkle the mozzarella at the end. A vegetable gratin is a good way to slip vegetables to my kids with a sauce that encourages them to actually eat them. Adding the leeks could be a game changer (you know, that fear of all things green) but I have hopes that we can pull this off. So, let's get cooking!
Preheat your oven to 350°then slice up one head of cauliflower into something akin to the potato rounds that are used in potato au gratin. Grease as 9x12 baking pan and layer your slices of cauliflower along the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle it liberally with salt and pepper.
Melt 2 T of butter and 1 T of coconut oil in a large sauce pan. Chop up the leeks and onions and add them to the pan. Drop in 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and stir on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are clear and the leeks are soft. Discard the thyme. Spread the mixture over the top of the cauliflower.
Melt 1/4 c of butter to your empty sauce pan then mix in the flour until smooth. Add the minced garlic, milk, and bay to the pan and stir together. Simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens to about the consistency of cream gravy.Stir regularly to prevent the flour from sticking to the bottom and burning. Add the nutmeg, mix, and pour over the top of the cauliflower and leeks. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top and cover with aluminum foil. You may add the bread crumbs with the mozzarella if you would like to make this a traditional au gratin. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.
Our cauliflower and leek au gratin was served with roasted chicken and yeast rolls. I was seriously skeptical about how the leeks would color the flavor because they look and smell so much like green onion to me. However, the leeks soaked up the buttery flavor while the cauliflower added texture and consistency. We were very pleasantly surprised and ended up without any leftovers!
Note: The sauce is a basic Béchamel sauce. However, you can substitute 1 C of heavy whipping cream for the butter and milk in step 3. I find the flavor to be richer by making the sauce. In addition, Gruyere cheese is the most common cheese used to make au gratin but has a higher calorie count than mozzarella.
- 1 head cauliflower, sliced
- 1 head leeks, chopped
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 C butter
- 1 T coconut oil
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 tsp bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 c 2 % milk
- 1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 C bread crumbs, optional
|Serving size: 8|
|Calories from Fat||144|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 16 g||25%|
|Saturated fat 10 g||50%|
|Carbohydrates 7 g||2%|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 6 g||12%|
|Cholesterol 40 mg||13%|
|Sodium 190 mg||8%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Nutritional information was generated using CalorieCount.com
How to Make a Basic Béchamel Sauce
I suggest tossing the cauliflower in olive oil and roasting at 400° for about 35 minutes before layering. In addition, toss the leeks and garlic in olive oil, salt them, and roast for about 15 minutes before layering on top of the cauliflower. Then proceed with making your sauce. Roasting deepens the flavor of the vegetables and adds a nice crunch to the cauliflower.
In addition, you could add ham or chicken and turn this into an all-in-one dinner.