Adapted from French: The Secret of Classic Cooking Made Easy
Jan taught a few classes in Paris during her summer breaks a few years ago. While she was there she picked up a French cook book. She decided that I should make some recipes from it for the French girl while she was here.
I was struggling with how to make the fairly simple recipe, Choufleur au Gratin, in the book my own when I remembered my son-in-law waxing eloquently about Gobhi Musallam a few weeks ago. Instead of chopping up the cauliflower, cooking it and smothering it in cheese sauce, could I somehow cook the cheese into a whole cauliflower, gobi musallaum-style? I was determined to try.
Gobi translates as “cauliflower” and musallan translates as “whole.” My problem was how do I get the cheese mixed into the cauliflower without cutting it up? If I simply poured on the cheese sauce it would just run off into the pan. I needed to find a way to get the cheese inside the cauliflower head. I decided to let gravity do the work by cooking it upside down for part of the cooking time.
After Dinner Note: This dish was a definite hit. Everyone loved this. It is a definite “do again” dish.
Karl’s Gobi Musallam au Gratin
1 cauliflower, whole and uncut
6 cloves garlic crushed
2 sprigs lemon thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. black pepper, fresh ground
Karl’s au Gratin Sauce
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 cup milk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ lb. Gruyére, grated, separate uses
Pinch nutmeg, fresh grated, separate uses
Pinch black pepper
Pinch Kosher salt
2 Tbs. snipped chives
1. Remove the leaves and toughest part of the stem from the cauliflower, but do not break it into florets.
2. Use a pot that is close to the size of the cauliflower, but a bit deeper. Add water to cover and the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and pepper.
3. Bring the pot to a boil, add the cauliflower upside down, and then reduce the temperature to medium low. Simmer until the cauliflower is half done (about 10 minutes).
4. Transfer the cauliflower to a shallow, Pam-ed baking dish (upside down).
Tip: You want to use a table-ready baking dish that is just slightly larger than the head of cauliflower. Transferring the cooked cauliflower to a serving dish is not really very easy in this case.
5. In a small pot, add the butter and flour and cook stirring constantly until lightly browned.
Tip: Cooking butter and flour this way is called a roux and is the base of many French sauces.
6. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.
7. Add the milk, a bit at a time, and continue stirring until the sauce has started to thicken.
8. Stir in the mustard.
9. Reserve ½ cup of the cheese and add the rest, a bit at a time, stirring constantly.
10. When the cheese is almost completely melted, add the nutmeg, pepper, and salt. Continue stirring to mix.
11. Pour half of the sauce into the cauliflower head. Keep the rest of sauce warm and stirred for the outside of the cauliflower.
Tip: The “branches” of the cauliflower florets have some spaces between them for the sauce to fill.
12. Put the cauliflower in a 500º F for about 10 minutes.
Tip: This allows the cheese sauce to work its way further into the cauliflower head.
13. Remove the baking pan from the oven and turn the cauliflower head right side up.
Tip: This is the hot and risky part. Try to turn it over without breaking it or burning yourself.
Note: The weight of the cauliflower did not keep the cheese inside from just running out, but the cheese sauce developed a dark crispy outer edge that was wonderful.
14. Smear the rest of the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese on top.
15. Return it to the oven and continue to bake at 500º F until the cheese is starting to brown well (about another 10 minutes).
Tip: A fork inserted into the base should slide in easily. The top should brown, but not burnt.
16. Garnish with the chives and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg and serve.