cauliflower cheese with smoky crumb topping
Equipment: Large pot with lid and steamer insert, OR electric steamer. Medium saucepan for making cheese sauce. 2-quart casserole, or four 8-ounce mini-cocottes and a 1-quart casserole.
  • About 2 lbs. cauliflower florets, trimmed of tough stems and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 T. butter
  • 4 T. flour
  • 2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 2 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, cayenne, or chipotle
  • 2 c. whole milk (I didn't have whole milk, so I used an unscientific mix of 1½ cups 1% milk and ½ cup half-and-half)
  • 1½ c. grated Gruyére cheese (or good-quality sharp Cheddar, which the original recipe calls for)
  • ¼ to ½ c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or regular plain breadcrumbs
  • Smoked paprika
  • Smoked salt (optional)
  • Good-quality cooking spray, or olive oil in a Misto
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, if desired
  1. Steam cauliflower: If using an electric steamer, fill the water tank, place the cauliflower florets in the steamer basket, cover, and set for 12-15 minutes (I like it a bit softer so I did 15 minutes). If using a pot with insert, fill the pot with water up until the bottom of the insert (without letting water in the insert), place the cauliflower in the insert, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and steam for 12-15 minutes. Once done, drain the cauliflower on a kitchen towel to wick away as much moisture as possible. Pat the cauliflower dry with a paper towel.
  2. Make the cheese sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the cauliflower is steaming, measure out the butter, flour, milk, and mustard and make sure the ground pepper and grated cheese are handy - you won't want to stop stirring the sauce to measure them. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk to combine, cooking 2-3 minutes (this gets rid of the raw-flour taste). Add mustard powder and generous dash of ground pepper to taste (black, cayenne, or chipotle), whisking continuously. Drizzle the milk in a thin, steady stream, whisking the entire time so that no lumps form. Whisk in the prepared Dijon. Bring to a simmer, stirring the entire time, until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the grated Gruyére a handful at a time, stirring until each addition is melted before adding the next. Turn off the heat, taste, and adjust for salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Assemble the dish: Make sure your cauliflower florets are nice and dry - pat them dry with a paper towel one more time if needed. Spread them in the 2-quart casserole dish, or place them in the mini cocottes, and spoon the cheese sauce over them. Sprinkle with panko (don't be too worried about measuring - just top it to your liking), and then sprinkle the panko with smoked paprika (and a little smoked salt if you have it). Spray the top of each dish with cooking spray so there is just a touch of oil on the panko - this is necessary so it will brown in the oven. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes for mini-cocottes and 30-35 minutes for a larger dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired. Enjoy!!
Recipe by radish*rose at