Ahhh, more adventures into the world of vegan comfort food! For most chefs, I think going through a phase of “what type of Chef do I want to be?” is a pretty standard process. Like any other type of creative/artistic work you have to find your groove so to speak. For me, I wanted to be a part of a high end restaurant line and be fully immersed in that intensity as well as the innovation going on there. But then I realized, quickly I might add, that it wasn’t my thing. Things are always in a state of flux in my world so, never say never, I have always dug the restaurant hell for some (possibly sadistic) reason. Nevertheless, I found that one area I tended to lean towards was comfort foods and tradition. Taking a traditional dish, spinning it my way, hopefully making it healthier and converting it to being 100% plant based, it's become quite the hobby of mine. I love to be innovative and think outside of the box too but there’s something fun about taking classics and making them even better. In my quest of making the world a healthier, kinder place I have noticed how much people are attached to the foods they grew up eating or the foods that they may have some form of emotional connection to. When people eat something that ties to a memory, there is definitely a reaction that occurs and when you can make that dish healthier the reaction is usually one of gratitude. Goes something like this, “I can’t believe this is vegan! I used to love this sort of thing when I was…” and it comes down to simply educating people on how to make easy swaps.
This recipe for cauliflower au gratin has become one of my personal favorites. It is super-duper rich and creamy, just they way I like it. Naturally, because of its rich-ness it makes a great addition to a holiday meal because when you’re going big, go all the way big! Am I right? That’s how I do. This past Thanksgiving my family had a lot going on for the main event dinner so I made this dish and served it as an appetizer before the meal, which worked out fabulously. Everyone fully appreciated its flavors, so that is something to consider if making it as part of an already extravagant meal. Also, the cheese sauce in this recipe is wonderful and can work in several applications, like say, Mac N’ Cheese? Yup, go ahead and go there my friends. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and as always report back to me with results!
Much love to you, happy cooking!
Vegan Cauliflower Au Gratin
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets (think bite size!)
2 cups unsweetened soy milk or rice milk
1 cup non-dairy cheese, this can be a combination of cheeses
1/4 cup minced yellow or white onion
1/4 cup earth balance butter
1/4 cup organic flour
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Vegan parmesan for the top (I use Follow Your Heart because it’s a god-send)
Chopped parsley for garnish
Heat oven to 375. Place cauliflower florets into a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Roast in oven about 15 min, turning over cauliflower in pan about half way through. While that is baking, in a medium saucepan heat the earth balance butter over medium-high heat. Once melted add the onion and cook until onion starts to become translucent. Using a whisk, start to whisk in 1/4 cup of flour by about 1/4 at a time and incorporate into butter-onion mixture. Then turn down the heat to a simmer and start to whisk in the milk. Once incorporated and mixture starts to thicken add in the vegan cheese, nutritional yeast and thyme. whisk until the cheese has melted. If it is too thick you can add little bits of milk back into the mixture slowly. Conversely, if it seems to thin add little bits of flour (by about 1 tbsp. at a time) into the mixture and whisk. Once the consistency seems right (thick but not sludge-y) add about 1 tsp. salt and a good pinch of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Pour cheese mix over the partially roasted cauliflower, top with bread crumbs, optional vegan parm and bake at 375 about 15 more min or until the top has begun to golden. Top with parsley for garnish and serve!