Saturday, 27 March 2010

Excuse Me, I Need To Make This Cauliflower

Growing up I never liked cauliflower. Actually, truth is, I never really liked vegetables and cauliflower simply just happens to be one.

As with many other vegetables, after learning how to cook them and use them in soups, stews or whatever, I have learned to love this floral vegetable for a number of reasons. Much like broccoli and asparagus, it has a number of ways it likes to be cooked: steamed, blanched, sauteed or roasted. It is usually inexpensive and keeps for a decent amount of time in your crisper. And it is very low in fat and high in fiber and vitamin C. It can be eaten raw but ugh. Not for me.

Now onto Bechamel. All you need to know is that Bechamel is essentially a milk sauce thickened with a roux and flavoured with cloves, onion and garlic.If you're interested, it is also one of the five mother sauces and is also known as White Sauce. Not too many people make this anymore. Reason being is that 35% cream is easier to buy, easier use and it tastes better. I've never ended up with lumps of roux in my 35% cream before. However, Bechamel has two major advantages for me: it is cost effective and it has more of a binding ability than that of 35% cream. Sometimes I use 35% and sometimes I use Bechy. It depends on what you're doing really.

Before I bore everyone with sauce cookery 101, I will mention that this recipe is a derivative of Bechamel called Mornay. Without getting into too much detail, a derivative is simply one of the mother sauces with an added ingredient to make something new. In our case, we are using Emmenthal Cheese to make our creamy sauce.

One last thing. As with many French Classical sauces, the names of the sauces are usually names after some dude. If you ever have to study sauce cookery, then ugh. It sucks. All these names of things that offer no hint or clue to what makes this sauce unique. I wonder, if cooks were still naming sauces after people today, who would have this honour bestowed upon them? Actors? Athletes? Journalists? Politicians? Or how about the Chefs who created them? Naw. No way. If there is one thing that we chefs aren't, that would be vain. Right?

Roasted Cauliflower with Mornay

2 Heads of Cauliflower, cut into florets (if you like the wacky coloured ones, go ahead, though I've learned the orange varietal comes from Ontario!)
1 L of 2% Milk
100 g Butter
100 g All Purpose (A.P.) Flour
1 Small Cooking Onion, rough dice
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
2 Cloves (no, not a typo. The spice.)
350 g Emmenthal Cheese, grated
Ice for Ice Bath
Drizzle of Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a tall stock pot, bring salted water to a simmer. Blanch cauliflower until tender; approximately 4 minutes. Remove and place into ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a sauce pan, melt butter until frothy. Add onions, garlic and cloves and cook for 3 minutes. Add flour and stir frequently. Add one third of your milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add remaining milk and continue to whisk. Bring to a slight boil. Stir constantly. Once it heats to a scald, remove from heat and strain. Return to heat and whisk in cheese. Season to taste.

Toss cauliflower in a drizzle and lay onto a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 8-10 minutes or until a little golden. Remove and place in a bowl and cover with Mornay sauce.

Serves 8.

Variation: you can use this on broccoli or asparagus or even pasta.

A Humble Chef's tip: make sure you use cold milk when adding it to your aromatic roux.

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