Cauliflower cheese as a main course

Cauliflower cheese is a great accompaniment to all kinds of meals, but is it able to stand out as a main course all by itself? Let’s find out. A cauliflower cheese is basically a gratin, so there are always possibilities here. You could make a basic version and serve it with a green vegetable, maybe spinach or a green salad and some bread, but I am thinking here about making the dish into the star, with no distractions. The answer is, I think, to add other ingredients into the cauliflower and béchamel mixture.

Immediately, bacon comes to mind, here in the form of lardons. Bacon is always a good idea with a cheese sauce. What else works well with cheese sauces? Ah, yes. Leeks. Bacon, leeks…… we are getting there but there should be something more. I think that we need mushrooms, sautéed ones, so we have something of an autumnal feel going on.

Anyway, it is a simple dish, so here we go.

Steam the florets from a whole cauliflower for about 5-6 minutes and drain.

Heat some oil and butter in a frying pan and fry some smoked bacon lardons until they begin to give up their fat and start to crisp up. Add a sliced leek and some sliced chestnut mushrooms and carry on frying until the mushrooms lose their rawness and the leeks are soft. Season with pepper and a little salt.

Put the cauliflower into an oven-proof dish and grate some nutmeg over it. add the bacon, leek and mushrooms and mix without breaking up the cauliflower.

Make a standard béchamel sauce and when it thickens stir in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a couple of handfuls of grated cheese, I used Emmenthal but anything that melts easily will work. Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, top the dish with more grated cheese and bake in a 170C oven until the top is golden and bubbling.

Serve and enjoy.

Maybe you could have some bread to soak up any sauce but it doesn’t really need it.

You could serve this as a single accompaniment to a roast chicken, or even a few good quality pork sausages but it is perfectly good all by itself.

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