Bacon-y Cauliflower Gratin

By • June 7, 2012 • 4 Comments



Author Notes: It’s funny how things just kind of happen in the kitchen. A month or so ago, within a day or two of receiving Tamar Adler’s “An Everlasting Meal,” I followed her suggestion to make a pesto using cauliflower and broccoli stems and leaves, parsley, garlic, olive oil and salt. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed, as it just wasn’t that flavorful. At precisely the same time, however, I had a good quantity of homemade ricotta in my cheese drawer, along with a bold, almost sharp French sheep and goats' milk feta. And then I remembered thirschfeld’s Cauliflower Spoon Eggs, and this quickly fell into place. Starting with the pale green cauliflower and broccoli pesto, I tossed in the cheese with 3 eggs and a handful of freshly picked herbs and a fat pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, then sprinkled on some Pecorino Romano, and popped it in the oven with a Pullman loaf I was baking that day. It was so good I’ve made it in several different ways since then. The bacon-flavored bread crumbs are inspired by the buttery bread crumbs that cover Amanda’s epic, family favorite Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde and Gruyere. I like to make this in my longest gratin dish, to increase the available real estate for the savory crumbs. I've made it with Italian oregano instead of thyme, which also worked really well. Enjoy!! ;o)AntoniaJames

Food52 Review: This gratin has a crunchy topping, while the cauliflower stays deliciously tender. Bacon-y flavors and herbed cheese really come through in every bite. I used dried marjoram and thyme, and it came out wonderfully. I would advise using bowls for mise en place before beginning to cook it, as it will make your life, and this dish, that much easier. The results are very good -- fancy enough for a holiday gathering!Carolyn Z

Serves 4 - 6

  • 1 cup bread crumbs, freshly made from bread that's a few days old (artisanal or sandwich, whatever you have)
  • 3 slices really good bacon
  • Sea salt
  • 1 small cauliflower, including core and stems
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Tiny pinch of ground cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sharp feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup ricotta, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano
  • Butter for the gratin dish
  1. If you are making breadcrumbs for this dish, do it now and set them aside, but don’t bother to wash out the bowl of your food processor.
  2. Heat your oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter a medium large gratin dish. (If it's a bit on the large size, all the better. This will allow for more crispy crumbs on the greater surface area!)
  3. In a large skillet for which you have a good tight lid, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s a nice mahogany color. Drain the slices on a paper towel and pour off all of the fat, except about 1 tablespoon, into a small bowl or jar. Keep it near the stove, as you’ll need it soon. Do not wipe out the skillet.
  4. While the bacon is cooking, prepare the cauliflower by cutting off the florets. Keep them separate as you cut the stems into one-inch pieces. They are more dense, requiring more time to soften, so they need to be cooked separately at first.
  5. Once you've removed the bacon, put the cauliflower stems into the skillet, given them a good stir, add a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for a few minutes. Add a little water – about ¼ cup – and put the lid on. Set your timer for 4 minutes, but check about half way through, stirring the stems around just a bit and putting the cover back on without delay. They should be getting a light brown glaze from the bacon drippings and small bits left in the skillet. If the pan seems too dry, add a bit more water but immediately put the cover back on.
  6. After another minute or so, add the cauliflower florets, garlic, cloves (garlic's best friend) and fresh marjoram; stir well. Add ½ cup of water and cover the skillet. Let it cook for about five minutes, checking quickly after 2, and adding a bit more water if it seems dry.
  7. While the cauliflower is cooking, cut the cooled, crisp bacon into ½” squares. After the cauliflower has cooked for 5 minutes, remove the lid. If there is a lot of liquid in the bottom, reduce it by turning up the heat to cook it for a minute or so, stirring frequently.
  8. Set aside 12 or 15 of the larger floret pieces. This is optional. I like a bit of textural variety in dishes like this, but if you want to skip this detail, that’s fine.
  9. Put all of the remaining cooked cauliflower, garlic, cloves and marjoram into a food processor, scraping the skillet well to get all of the little pieces. Pulse firmly five or six times. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times. You want to mash it all up well, but not to make a puree. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to facilitate that.
  10. Heat the skillet over a medium flame and pour at least two tablespoons of bacon fat back into it. Add the bread crumbs and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly to coat well. Add about 2/3 of the bacon pieces and stir well to incorporate.
  11. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, feta, ricotta, cream, thyme, nutmeg, parsley and black pepper, along with the remaining 1/3 of the bacon pieces. Add the mashed vegetables from the food processor and stir well to combine. Gently fold in the reserved florets.
  12. Pour into the gratin dish; then sprinkle with the grated parmesan. Cover with the bacon-y bread crumbs.
  13. Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the bread crumbs are a nice toasty brown.
  14. Enjoy!! ;o)

Comments (4) Questions (0)

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about 2 years ago Regine

Yummy. I will soon try this. Sounds so good. I love cauliflower au gratin so this new bacon-y and breadcrumb version must be delightful.

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about 2 years ago bugbitten

I'm guessing your wing is mended, AJ. This recipe is a great shake up for lonely, overlooked cauliflower, and fits the contest to a tee. Good luck!

Dscn3274

about 2 years ago inpatskitchen

This sounds wonderful! I too have recently discovered French feta and like it almost as much as Bulgarian. I may get Tom to eat cauliflower with this one! Saved!!

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about 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, ipk! The sharp feta, plus the bacon-y toasted crumbs, sort of sealed the deal on this one for me . . . . ;o)