Friday, March 4, 2011
Is there anything that doesn't taste good smothered in bechamel sauce?
I'm sure I could eat anything wrapped in that creamy goodness. Include some sharp cheddar and a golden-crumbed topping, and I'd wager you could hide a tennis shoe underneath and I'd at least give it a try. Probably lick the sauce from the laces.
Last weekend, we were invited to a combo birthday/Oscar party potluck. I knew dessert was covered, it being a birthday celebration, and didn't want to bring the standard potluck salad, whether it be green, pasta, or potato. I decided on this divine cauliflower gratin, which, let's face it, is just a fancy name for casserole.
My friend Stephanie made this at Thanksgiving and it was the hit of the dinner. I bothered her for the recipe for a long time to no avail, and even tried this one in my desperation, which was very good. But it did not stand up to Stephanie's. When I finally wore her down (no friendship stands in my way of food) and got my greedy paws on it, I knew had to make it, soon. Heather's birthday bash seemed like the right opportunity.
"Why is it so good, Hungry Dog?" I can hear you clamoring. "Tell us!"
Well, there's the bechamel sauce I mentioned, which is fortified with loads of cheddar and a handful of scallions, giving it a mild oniony bite and a pleasant sprinkling of green. Then there's the topping, which is actually made from crackers instead of breadcrumbs, giving it both delightful crunch and a good dousing of trashiness, befitting its casserole roots. But what elevates this dish from delicious to divine is that the the topping is made from...wait for it...horseradish cracker crumbs.
What you do is, you melt some butter, and then stir in the horseradish, then toss it all with the crumbled crackers. So you've got yourself a buttery, peppery, crispy top layered over creamy, cheesy goodness. Oh yeah, there's cauliflower in there too. (Does anyone even care?)
I doubled the recipe and brought it to the potluck, where it was a great success. Heather emailed me the next day for the recipe, and although I considered playing it coy like Steph, in the end I decided, sharing is good. Plus, it's not like I made this one up.
I only made one edit to the dish, which was a concession to the husband. The recipe calls for Saltines -- you know, those flimsy salty little things. That's what I would have gotten if I'd been at the store alone. But the husband was with me, and he noticed that Saltines contain trans-fat. He batted his eyelashes a bit and said, wouldn't I consider some of the good fancy crackers we usually buy?
I was resistant at first--you know I can be a rule follower (a pointless characteristic, I'm realizing as I get older, as all it ensures is that I do the same thing as everyone else) -- but ultimately relented. And, although the crackers were quite a bit tougher to crumble, they yielded a better topping.
I guess after nearly 11 years together, I shouldn't be surprised that we've morphed into each other a bit. But, come on: the boy from Kentucky recoils at trans-fat while the California girl grudgingly agrees to use the rosemary and sea-salt crackers? Just goes to show, anything can happen if you give it time.