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Cauliflower is wildly underrated as a vegetable. In the plant-based or gluten-free world, cauliflower has become an alternative to meat (Ever had a cauliflower steak? It’s really quite good!) or as a crust on pizzas. We’re not quite going the healthy route here, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve got a feast in mind, one that is big on decadence and well-suited for a special occasion, like a holiday dinner celebration. Roasted Cauliflower in a rich cheese sauce might replace your traditional mashed potatoes, dare I say, it will!

Luxurious. Need I say more? What word could best capture the experience of this simple yet decadent side dish? Roasting cauliflower generally allows the knobby veggie to maintain its familiar crunch and soften as it caramelizes and turns golden toasty-brown.

I’m a big fan of roasted cauliflower on its own, but I also can’t resist a cheese sauce, also known by its technical name a mornay sauce. Similar to a classic bechamel, this sauce is made with milk, heavy cream, butter, and some aromatics, and one that might seem unusual but gives the sauce that certain je ne sais quoi, nutmeg. Nutmeg offers a hint of warmth and nuttiness that pairs well with the richness of the cheese sauce and toasted cauliflower.

The mornay is poured over the roasted cauliflower and baked until the top begins to brown. You’ll want this to cool a bit before serving, not only to allow the sauce to set up after it comes out of the oven but to avoid a scalded tongue from an eager eater! Everything about this dish echoes familiar comfort foods, like mashed potatoes or even mac and cheese, which is why Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce will likely rival these traditional sides and earn a coveted spot at the dinner table. Creamy, cheesy, toasty, al dente cauliflower is as comforting as comfort food gets!

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce is from the Royal British Fest at Table for 12. It is served with Individual Beef Wellingtons, Duck Fat Roastie Potatoes, and Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Serves 6

10m prep time

35m cook time

10m inactive

5.0
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For the cauliflower:
  • 1 1/2 cauliflower heads, trimmed into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the mornay sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 oz. English white cheddar, grated
Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F and prepare two parchment-lined sheet trays.
  2. Toss cauliflower in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Assemble cauliflower on prepared sheet trays and roast for 15 minutes or until just tender.
  3. Make the mornay sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and flour to a pan until the butter melts and the flour is toasted for 1 minute.
  4. Add milk and cream to the pan, and bring the mixture up to a boil whisking constantly until a thickened bechamel sauce is formed.
  5. Add nutmeg, white pepper, and season with salt.
  6. Turn heat to low and whisk handfuls of cheese into the sauce until the cheese melts in the creamy sauce.
  7. Taste for seasoning and add roasted cauliflower to the cheese sauce.
  8. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the top of the mixture starts to brown. Enjoy!

This recipe is from the Royal British Feast at Table for 12.