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Delicious, Cream-less, Cauliflower Gratin

Look at what I got for Christmas!


I guess since we started this food blog people think I’m into cooking or something. Craziness! So I’ve been perusing these lovely tomes, marveling at the pretty photos and just how heavy these books are. Together, they weigh 16 pounds. For a few days I had left them in a stack on an ottoman before my worry that they would permanently compress the foam got the better of me and I relocated them to a stiff surface.

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit intimidated by The French Laundry Cookbook so I’ve barely looked through it. So far, between the Bouchon and the Ad Hoc at Home cookbooks, I’ve been drawn to the former. I’ve made a couple of recipes from it and I have to say, I’m hooked. I don’t think I’m familiar enough with these books right now to say much more than I have, but I was so excited by the cauliflower gratin recipe that I needed to share.

The one rub, though, was that the recipe in the Bouchon cookbook calls for cream and I’ve declared January a “no cream month.” So I substituted evaporated whole milk and no lie, Rourke thought that I had used cream. hahahahahahha! I fooled him! I also tweaked the recipe a bit by steaming the cauliflower instead of boiling it.


Cauliflower Gratin
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook
- serves 2 to 3 as a side -

1 head cauliflower (mine was about 2 lbs)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1 italian parsley sprig
5 oz. of evaporated whole milk
1/4 – 1/2 tsp prepared horseradish
1/3 cup grated emmentaler cheese
1 Tbsp panko or other toasted breadcrumbs
pinch of curry powder
kosher salt
black pepper
grated nutmeg

1. Remove and discard the green leaves from the cauliflower. Cut the florets into 1-inch pieces, reserving the core and the stems. You should have 4-5 cups of florets.

2. Cut away and discard the exterior of the core, then cut the core into a fine dice. Cut the reserved stem trimmings into a fine dice as well and combine. You should have about 1 cup. If you don’t have enough, dice enough of the florets to make 1 cup.

3. Steam the florets until you’re able to pierce them easily with a knife, but while there’s still a small bite to the cauliflower. You can steam them until they’re completely tender if you like, but I like my veggies with a little bite to them. Steam in batches if you need to. I steamed the florets for about 4 minutes per batch.

4. Reserve approximately 1 cup of the steaming water. Put the steamed florets aside and season with salt to taste.

5. Add the butter and shallots to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the shallots are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the bay leaf, thyme, and parsley.

6. Add the finely diced cauliflower (stems and core) and 2/3 cup of the reserved steaming water and cook gently for 5 to 6 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated and the cauliflower is tender. If all of the water evaporates before the cauliflower is tender, add more.

7. Add the evaporated whole milk and heat for 2 minutes. Do not let the mixture simmer or boil. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme, bay leaf, and parsley.

8. Pour the mixture into a blender and puree. As a precaution, place a towel over the lid before you puree and do not fill the blender more than 1/3 full. Puree in batches if necessary.

9. Add the horseradish and curry powder to the puree and blend to combine. At this point, sneak a taste of the puree and marvel that it doesn’t contain any cream.

10. Toss the puree with the florets and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

11. Transfer the cauliflower to an ovenproof dish. The cream should come about one-third or halfway up the florets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to mature. The book says that you can refrigerate this for up to a day.

12. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Sprinkle the gratin with the cheese and the panko and bake for about 15 minutes, or until bubbling and the center is warm.

13. If you’d like, broil the gratin for an additional 2-3 minutes to brown the top, but be careful when you do this not to let it burn. Burnt cheese smells gross. Serve!


    1. Jimmy says:

      Interesting… evaporated milk seems to be around half-and-half-ish in terms of calories (more protein though, less fat). That’s in interesting option for lowering the calories recipes that call for heavy cream.

      Per 100mL (

      Whole milk full fat
      Calories: 66
      Fat: 3.9g

      Evaporated milk whole
      Calories: 155
      Fat: 9g

      Half cream fresh
      Calories: 150
      Fat: 15g

    2. JL McNamara says:

      Yeah, evaporated is better than fresh when I’m using it as a cream substitute. A bit thicker due to the evaporation. I also prefer the evaporated for the convenience factor. I always keep a few cans in the cupboard so that it’s there when I need it.

      I don’t go so far as to do low fat or skim evaporated, though. That’s just cutting out too much fat for it to be worth eating.

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