Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin

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It’s been years since I’ve seen a secret note neatly folded up with an important message. I remember passing notes back in elementary school and sometimes a note would say: Do you like me? Check yes or no.

In most of the notes there would be: Who do you like in class? And in some notes there would be: List your top 3 favorite colors.
My list would usually have pink, purple, and blue. Pink was always number one. Today after looking again at these broccoli photos, I’ve promoted purple to the number one status. 
Wow! The color of this broccoli was just eye-popping incredible! And somehow getting your kids to eat a purple vegetable is so much easier than getting them to eat a green one. Although, oddly enough, broccoli is one of my children’s favorite veggies. Maybe because a clever friend told them when they were wee ones that the broccoli florets were fairy trees where the fairies lived. 
I had this cauliflower in my fridge for over a week. It’s smell was beckoning me to hurry and make something with it. Cauliflower has a pretty funky smell after a while. As I was pondering what to do with it’s violet gorgeousness, I settled on a simple and wonderful pasta dish I usually make. 
Unsatisfied with this safe and tasty dinner idea, I changed my mind.

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I encounter a heck of a lot of deliciousness through Twitter, Facebook, Foodbuzz, and Stumbleupon. I tend to make a mental bookmark of some things that have really caught my eye, make my stomach stir with embarrassingly loud pangs of hunger, or that makes me want to lick the screen (I know…super gross!).
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I like to think of myself as a person that embodies extreme amounts of self-control. But sometimes I just cave from the desire; like on Monday night when I made this gratin I saw my talented friend Jamie from Life’s a Feast over across the Atlantic make one day in France. I pictured her and her family eating this together in their sweet apartment in Nantes on a cold winter’s evening. Maybe they were arguing about who would get the last, irresistible portion while they drank another glass of delicious wine and shared another loaf of crusty and perfect French bread. 
I’ve made potato gratins before but never one with cauliflower. I knew I had to make this for my loved ones. Jamie suggests eating it as a side dish with roasted meat. We ate it as a side dish with Fabrizio’s incredible steak he made for us on Monday night. It was our family Valentine’s Day dinner that we celebrated the day before Valentine’s.  I made homemade bread (Abby Dodge’s fantastic Peasant Boule), this gratin, and a banana/persimmon bread for dessert. Since our dinners all together are rare, I tend to make it a very special meal. It wasn’t actually Valentine’s because we never see hubs on Valentine’s. That happens to be one of the busiest nights at the restaurant and honestly, I’m really not that sentimental about this holiday.
I don’t need a day to remind me how much I love the people dear to me. It’s these meals together with the ones I love that I cherish the most.

These meals together make my stomach content and my heart very happy.

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You could make this gratin with white cauliflower or even with just potatoes and the besciamella. If you will use only potatoes, I would double the amount. I used my besciamella recipe and the portion was perfect for a 10×6 casserole dish. This dish is incredible. I would’ve been happy eating it alone with a great salad. Or even alone without a salad. It smells heavenly while it’s baking and good luck waiting for it to cool before taking that first cheesy and dreamy bite.

Purple Cauliflower and Potato Gratin
inspired by Life’s a Feast

1 cauliflower head (I used a purple one), cut into bite-sized pieces
4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup Gruyère cheese cut into small chunks (or whatever soft cheese you’d like)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Besciamella Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
teaspoon nutmeg

la besciamella directions:

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together until incorporated. The flour will be very dry. Raise the heat to medium-high and in 1/2 cup portions, gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. The besciamella will continue to thicken even when you remove from the heat. If it seems to dense, whisk in a little bit more of mil. Whisk in the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

vegetables:

Preheat oven to 420F. Sauté’ the onion in a large frying pan with 1-2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil until translucent and golden brown.

In the meantime, boil the cauliflowers and potatoes in two different medium sauce pans until they are tender. The vegetables should still have a little crunch and it should only take a few minutes. Be sure to not overcook the vegetables.

Drain the veggies and place in a large bowl. Season the vegetables with salt, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil.  Both vegetables will continue cooking in casserole with the besciamella sauce.
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Spoon a portion of the besciamella over the bottom of the casserole. Layer the vegetables on top. Spread the rest of the besciamella on top. Toss on the Gruyère cheese and sprinkle on the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. 
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Bake at 420 F for about 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown on top.

buon appetito! Hope you are having a fabulous week!

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