Chou-fleur sauce Mornay

Cauliflower in Mornay sauce

This dish of cauliflower bathed in a velvety cheese sauce makes a nice winter lunch dish or a satisfying side for grilled meat, poultry or fish. You can serve it as is — or, if you prefer, you can pop it in the oven to create a cauliflower gratin.

Preparation is easy. Mornay sauce is a Béchamel (cream sauce) enriched with an egg yolk and grated Comté or a similar cheese. It can be made in a matter of minutes. I like to flavor the sauce with a little garlic and grated nutmeg, but this is optional. Once the sauce is made, you steam the cauliflower — and that’s it.

The recipe calls for a small cauliflower, and the quantities below will serve two to three people. If you happen to have a large cauliflower, double the quantities for the sauce.

1 small cauliflower
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
1 egg
2 ounces (60 g) Comté, Gruyère or a similar cheese

1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic (optional)
freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Cut the cauliflower in half, remove the core, rinse and break into pieces (flowerets). Place the flowerets in a steamer but don’t turn on the heat — you will cook the cauliflower later when the sauce is ready.

Start by setting out the ingredients for the sauce. Measure out the butter, flour and milk. Separate the egg, placing the yolk in a small bowl and discarding the white (or setting it aside for another use). Grate the cheese. If using the optional ingredients, peel and halve the garlic, and have your nutmeg and grater handy.

Now you will make the sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the flour, stir to blend and cook over medium heat for about one minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat.

Stir a couple spoonfuls of sauce into the yolk, then add this mixture back into the sauce. Place over low heat. Add the cheese and  stir until it has melted. Add the salt and pepper. If using the optional ingredients, add the garlic pieces and grate a little nutmeg over the pot (but go easy — a little goes a long way). Keep warm over very low heat.

Now steam the cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a serving dish. Remove the garlic pieces from the sauce and spoon it over the cauliflower. Serve piping hot. Serves 2 as a main dish, 3 as a side.

Variation: To make a cauliflower gratin, place the cooked cauliflower in an oiled baking dish, cover with the sauce and pop in the oven until the sauce is bubbling and starting to brown, about 10-15 minutes.

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