Friday, July 8, 2011

Probably not Gratin


I bought broccoli and cauliflower the other day, thinking that I was not eating enough vegetables. I like cauliflower naked pretty well, but raw broccoli is unpleasant to me- it's the texture. Sort of dry, and scrunchy, and then it falls apart into all these little bits that will poof out of your mouth if you aren't careful. Fortunately, I am happy to eat it cooked. Now that I'm a grown-up, the sulfurous stinkiness of cooked broccoli is not so repellant as it was when I was a kid, and cooking improves not only texture, but the ability of broccoli florets to accept flavoring agents. Like cheese.

1 1/2 cup broccoli florets
1cup cauliflower florets
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp fresh thyme
1tsp fresh oregano
1 head of fresh lavender buds
3 eggs
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/3 cup water
a generous tablespoon of butter
1 cup grated cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Use a heavy oven safe skillet.

Mince the herbs. Beat the eggs, water, cornmeal and herbs in a bowl, and season with a little salt & pepper. Set it aside to let the cornmeal soak up some water.

Put a little butter or olive oil in the skillet, and saute the onions until they go transparent. Add the garlic and stir it around for about a minute, then add the florets and a dash of water to create steam and cover the pan. Stir it from time to time to keep it from over-browning, and when the cauliflower is tender, take it off the heat and let it cool down a bit.

Stir the cheese into the egg mix. Melt the butter and stir that in too, then pour the mix over the vegetables, and poke them around a bit to get the cheese evenly distributed. Bake for 20 minutes, the turn on the broiler, move the oven rack up and brown the top until you like the way it looks.


While there is nothing fancy about this dish, and it is almost identical to the fritatta I made a while ago, I think I like this a little better. Again, it's all about texture. Cauliflower is more delicate than potatoes, and cooks faster, giving the finished product a lighter feel despite the added butter in the eggs. (You could probably skip the butter, but why?) I think the cornmeal may have something to do with it, but it's hard to say. I really just used it because I needed a binding agent and that's what I found in the cupboard. It did create a few crunchies around the edges, which was nice.

Almost any cheese would be good, I had cheddar. Visually, I like the orange cheese, but I think swiss or gruyere would taste more interesting.

Come to think of it, there is a fancy thing: the lavender. That's very important. Lavender has an astringent character which balances well with all the fat in the dish.

As I was cooking this, I couldn't figure out what it is that makes something 'au gratin' as opposed to any other thing made in the oven. So I looked it up, and apparently, to be au gratin the dish should have a crust baked onto it, preferably made of buttered breadcrumbs. There are no crumbs here, so this is not gratin, unless you take the secondary accepted definition of a baked dish with cheese, which cheese forms a browned crust on top. That makes most recipes for mac and cheese fall under one or the other of these definitions.

Elbows Au Gratin sounds revoltingly twee.

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