Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Careless Cauliflower Au Gratin and Mexican Coke Glaze

So I had about an hour to crank out an Easter Brunch side dish. Mom had given me the run-down of who was bringing what and it became very apparent we were desperately cheese-less. This cannot stand. Dad wouldn't budge on having mashed potatoes (which are so un-springy it's not even funny. It's a passive aggressive reaction to summer coming I'm sure) so scalloped potatoes were off the menu. But really the vegetable in scalloped au gratin anything is just something for the cheese to cling to so instead I decided to make Cauliflower au gratin. So I went out and bought what I thought I needed: 2 cauliflower heads, a pound of butter, 2 pounds of cheese, a pint of half and half, garlic and shallots. Once I got it home I looked up a recipe. One of the first women I turn to when I need a standard recipe done right and (hopefully) simply and quickly is Ina Garten. Legend.

Started scanning the ingredient list looks good skip the nutmeg I'll add my unsecret weapon Tony Chachere's if anything goes awry WAIT A SECOND. PARBOIL?!

Don't think so.

Even if I had the time I wouldn't want to bother with parboiling and time's a wastin' so instead I started chopping with abandon, filled 2 glass pans and put them in the oven at 425.

I never even wait for the thing to preheat all the way because I never bake and that way the food warms up with the oven I don't know it makes total sense to me. While the cauliflower's going I sliced 3 shallots and 2 much garlic and added half of each to the roasting pans.

My kitchen is not smitten, but so far so good.

Here's where the heresy kicks in.

We've got no flour and hence no roux. Or nothing that most people would call roux. I've got the butter no problem there (and isn't the packaging cute!)

but what I DO have is a gang of almond meal. This totally shouldn't have worked.

But it totally did.

After the butter hit the pan I added the rest of the garlic and shallots and did a preliminary seasoning. In went some almond meal. I stirred. It thickened. It was awesome.

How 'bout some cheese? OK! I used a swiss gruyere blend, an aged Unexpected Cheddar (tastes a teensy bit like a fruity Parmesan) and a Cheddar Gruyere Hybrid. I added them to the roux with a little milk and got a little scared but stuff started melting and oozing but kept from breaking!

More stirring, more cheese and more milk and then the pan was full and ready for some baking action.

This is where I should have dumped the entire pan on the oven door or burned my hand beyond recognition but thankfull all was well and before I knew it everything was bubbling away!

 Let's take a peek!

I added some more almond meal to the leftover cheese and sprinkled deluged the cauliflower with it.

Once again we needed to hurry things along. The cheese was gurgling gangbusters in there but I needed a brown top stat.

Off went the oven, on goes the broiler and I was out the door 5 minutes later.

The perfect compliment to an amazing Mexican Coke and Cinnamon-Orange Flame-Glazed Ham.

O yes...the glaze.

So I get to my mom's house and the ham looks fine don't get me wrong but we could take it to spectacular in 15 minutes so why not?

I reduced a mexican coke, the juice and pulp of one orange, a dash of cinnamon, some garlic powder and some salt until it's the consistency of maple syrup. I spoon a third of  it onto the ham open side down and put it onto a preheated grill. This is important because I want the outside hot and the inside meat room temp so it doesn't get tough. After a few minutes I open the lid and give it a second coating fast. Lid down and up again 2 minutes later for a final coat. One last heat treatment and that baby was golden. Alas I forgot to get a picture of it when it was ready and remember when it was almost done, But this gives you a little idea.

New family tradition for sure.

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