Saffron is not a standard addition to cauliflower gratin, but I’ve seen it used at several upscale restaurants in Paris. Gratin de chou-fleur is a very common French dish, so the addition of saffron creates a new dimension of color and aroma.
As a child, I remember being served this side dish quite frequently during the winter. Cauliflower may not be considered by some as a comfort food, but when it’s cooked in a béchamel sauce and smothered in mozzarella cheese, it will make even the most die-hard cauliflower haters reconsider their position.
1. Info for Saffron Cauliflower Gratin (Gratin de Chou Fleur au Safran)
- Cook Time: 25 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Servings: 8
- Calories: 261kcal
2. Ingredients for Saffron Cauliflower Gratin (Gratin de Chou Fleur au Safran)
- 2 whole cauliflowers
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 8 tablespoons butter, diced
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4-1/2 cups whole milk, warmed for 2 minutes in the microwave
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese , thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
- 3/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
- To cut the head of the cauliflowers into florets, removestem and discard the green leaves and the stem of the head. Cut into wedges from the bottom. Pull and separate the small florets manually.
- Place the florets in a bowl, cover them with water and add the white vinegar. Stir well. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain.
- Fill a pot with cold water until it barely touches the steamer level. It’s important to start with cold water so the cauliflower cooks evenly. Place the florets in the steamer, bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Steam for about 15-20 minutes. The cauliflower should be fork-tender (not mushy) but still firm. Remove from the steamer. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Allow to cool a little.
- In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/4 cup of milk. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt 8 tablespoons of butter over medium-low; you don’t want the butter to burn. Bring the heat back up to medium-high (the butter should be hot and golden) and add the flour. Keep stirring manually with a whisk for approximately 2-3 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter instantly and form a paste. Add the milk in 3 stages. Increase the heat while constantly stirring for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add about 8 ounces of the mozzarella cheese to the sauce. When the cheese is melted, add the saffron liquid and 2 teaspoons of parsley. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir well. Let the sauce rest until it’s time to assemble the dish.
- In an 11-1/2-inch oval casserole dish previously greased with butter, spread all the cauliflower florets. Spread ladles of the saffron béchamel sauce to cover the cauliflower. Finish with a layer of mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F and broil for about 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden top. Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm. Garnish with the rest of the parsley.
- Bon appétit!