I’m total a sucker for anything involving a cheesy sauce. And while pasta may be an ideal receptacle, sometimes you have to cut back on your carb intake. What’s a girl to do when she’s already eaten her weight in wheat this week? Turn to the next best thing: cauliflower.
Cauliflower is a great vegetable because its starchiness mimics carb-y foods that we love but shouldn’t eat so much of: namely, pasta and potatoes. In fact, I’d argue that you can substitute cauliflower in 75% of pasta and potato dishes. Have you ever tried buttered mashed cauliflower? Cauliflower with pesto sauce? Or baked, cheesy cauliflower casserole? Turns out cauliflower is an ideal delivery device for all sorts of comforting ingredients, like butter, meat sauce, and of course, cheese.
This dish is lovely for many reasons, including its cream and cheese content, but what I love most about this recipe is that it provides a huge helping of comforting richness while still getting in a mega-serving of vegetables. You could just as easily make this dish with macaroni, but cauliflower allows you to skip the pesky food-coma that sets in after indulging. Then there’s the toasty, crunchy topping, which I adore on a cold winter night; it really makes the dish, so don’t skip bread crumbs. In fact, trying using your own homemade breadcrumbs for an even homier effect.
Southern breaded cauliflower is cheesy and creamy, with a few spices added to make things interesting. If you like, you can leave out the nutmeg and cumin, but they really do take the dish from standard to sensational. You could even add a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon if you like to amp up the sweetness, or a few pinches of cayenne to up the spice.
Tell me in the comments: What are your favorite ways to cut back on carbs but still enjoy the foods you love most? Do you have a favorite tip on how to make your favorite comfort foods healthier? Let me know in the comments!
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk, warm
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup grated pecorino Roman cheese, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup panko-style bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon melted butter
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Set the oven rack to the middle and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Pour 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of a pot fitted with a vegetable steamer. Cover and set over medium heat. Once the water boils, drop florets into the steamer, cover, and steam until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a small casserole dish and arrange the florets in a layer inside.
- Add butter to a small heavy saucepan and melt over low heat. Add shallot and cook until gently browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Whisk in flour, pepper, nutmeg, and cumin. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and heavy cream and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce comes to a boil and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the pecorino. Season to taste with salt, then pour sauce over cauliflower in casserole dish.
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, melted butter, and remaining pecorino. Stir well and sprinkle over the top of the florets. Bake until gently browned, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, or alternatively, sprinkle with more cheese and broil briefly for a darker, crisper topping.