CAULIFLOWER-BACON GRATIN for the 4 1/2-Quart Bram
Because the Bram is made of clay, it’s sensitive to rapid temperature changes. For this reason, it’s important to have your ingredients at room temperature – you don’t want the mixture to chill the Bram before it goes into the hot oven.
Makes about 15 servings
2 heads cauliflower
1/2 pound bacon, cut into short, slender strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
Freshly grated nutmeg
6 to 8 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (you can use Emmenthal, Swiss or even Cheddar)
Salt and freshly grated pepper
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the Bram on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Put a large pot of salted water up to the boil. Pull or cut the florets from the cauliflower, leaving about an inch or so of stem. You won’t be using the rest of the stems or the heavy base branch, but you might want to save them for soup. Drop the florets into the water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the cauliflower under cold running water to cool it down, then pat it dry. Alternatively, you can steam the florets over salted water. When they’re fork tender, drain and pat dry.
While the cauliflower is blanching, toss the bacon strips into a heavy skillet, put the skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon just until it’s browned, but not crisp. Drain and pat the bacon dry; save or discard the fat.
Pile the cauliflower into the Bram and scatter over the bacon bits.
Put the flour in a mixing bowl and gradually whisk in the eggs. When the flour and eggs are blended, whisk in the cream and milk. Season the mixture generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir in most of (about two-thirds of) the cheese. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower, shake the Bram a little, so that the liquid settles between the florets, and scatter over the remaining cheese.
Bake the gratin for about 1 hour, and then put a foil tent over the top to keep it from browning too much. Continue baking for another 15 to 30 minutes, or until the gratin is puffed and golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Serving: The gratin is best a little less than hot or still warm, but, like a quiche, it can be enjoyed at room temperature. Serve it alongside anything roasted – it’s nice to have something a little rich with a roast – or have it with a salad and call it supper.
Storing: You really should try to eat the gratin the day it is made, but if you’ve got leftovers, cover and refrigerate them and either let them come to room temperature or warm them quickly and gently in the oven or microwave.
Bonne idée: A recipe as basic as this one is easily played with. You can replace the bacon with cubes of ham; you can certainly add herbs to the mix – thyme would be good, but so would curry; and you can add a companion vegetable – quickly sautéed onions come to mind immediately, but there’s no reason not to have the cauliflower share the stage with its more colorful cousin, broccoli.