I just got off the phone with my best college girl friend, Rebecca. We lived together when she was a Sophomore and I was a Junior. We rented the furnished apartment of an old lady in Yonkers. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a great kitchen which flowed in a dining area and then into a giant living room filled with VERY ugly furniture. We were both full-time students, but I also worked every weekend and every school break for a fashion designer in Manhattan. Somehow though, when I think on my Junior year of college all I can remember doing is cooking. I guess I did it in my “spare” time? Maybe I didn’t sleep? Maybe I was a really bad student? I don’t remember! I only remember cooking!
During our phone call, Rebecca told me that she recently found a letter that I had written her when she went abroad the year after we lived together. It was tucked in to one of her cookbooks. It is several hand written pages and seems to be in response to a request that she sent for recipes. It includes recipes for fresh tomato salsa and “Indian Tomato Sauce”. Apparently, at age 21 I was on a tomato recipe kick. Well, at 39 I am on a cauliflower recipe kick.
Actually, I had called Rebecca in part because I knew that she still owns a copy of the Moosewood cookbook, which we both cooked from a lot back in college. I recently came up with really delicious cauliflower gratin with horseradish and I have a sneaky suspicion that it bears a strong resemblance to a Moosewood recipe. The closest thing she could find was a recipe for horseradish sauce that Ms. Katzen says she used to make with eggs and sour cream (Rebecca owns the updated version which is a little more health conscious than the original.)
So, I am unsure of the origin of this recipe. Last winter (during the cauliflower eating marathon of 2012) another old friend, Katherine, mentioned something about cauliflower baked with horseradish and the idea stuck in my mind. I decided to make a cauliflower gratin with horseradish, sour cream and cheddar cheese… Which may or may not have been something that I used to make from my original edition Moosewood?
I made the first one with layers of beautiful green and purple cauliflower and no poppy seed topping. I generally find colorful cauliflowers a little blander and dryer than regular cauliflower (not to mention more expensive), However, their sweet flavour and firm texture worked very well in this recipe (not to mention being very pretty).
I made the second batch with a plain old white cauliflower and topped it with a the crumbled remains of a failed poppy seed pie crust that I had kicking around in my freezer. I really did this just to use up my failed crust but, wow, that is very, very good. Poppy seeds and horseradish have an affinity for one another and add a nice crunchy texture to an otherwise very creamy dish.
I made a third batch to figure out how your could reproduce the poppy seed topping if you don’t have a bag of failed pie crust crumbs in your freezer. We have been eating our bounty of cauliflower gratin as a side dish for Cranberry Brisket (I also had cranbery sauce leftover from Thanksgiving in my freezer) and for Pork Chops in Boozy Jam Sauce
- 1/3 cup brown rice flour (or an equal amount white wheat flour)
- 1/3 cup mochi rice flour (or an equal amount white wheat flour)
- 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch (or an equal amount white wheat flour)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon of milk
- 1 small cauliflower
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 heaping cup sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
- juice from one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup grated white aged cheddar
- a sprinkling of paprika
- Combine the rice flours, tapioca starch, 1/8 tsp salt and the poppy seeds. If you eat gluten you can just use 2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of white all-purpose flour (wheat). Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until the texture resembles bread crumbs. Add a teaspoon of milk and gather it into a ball as best you can….t won’t work, but you will be left with a bunch of crumbles in various sizes that are perfect for topping a gratin. Place the mixture in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the rest of the gratin.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Trim the toughest part of the cauliflower stem off, along with any leaves and discard it. Cut the cauliflower in 1/2 inch slices from top to bottom. These slices should include the stem as well. Layer the slices in a gratin dish or a deep, 9 by 12 baking dish.
- Whisk the yolks, sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice and salt together in a bowl until they are well combined. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower. It may seem like this is not enough liquid. Please resist the urge to add another dollop of sour cream, as your gratin will turn out soupy. Not that I have made that mistake or anything.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top. Again, resist the urge to add more cheese. Again, I am not saying that I have made that error. Sprinkle on the chilled poppy seed mixture… …and finally some paprika.
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