Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baked Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower baked in a cheesy white sauce is the quintessence of comforting British nursery food, and a measly two ounce allotment of cheese per week didn't mean that Albion's children had to do without! By employing a little frugal ingenuity, cooks on the home front were able to ensure that homey favor(u)rites like this one continued to grace wartime dinner tables as they had in more prosperous times. (Which the Ministry of Food assured everyone were totally coming back, just as soon as the Hun was neutralized and peace restored.) So buck up, stiffen your backbone, measure out that rationed (vegan) cheese with a smile, remember that better times lie ahead, and enjoy, because this dish is pretty damned good!

Baked Cauliflower Cheese
~ 1.5 lbs. cauliflower, broken into florets
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 5-6 each: black peppercorns, whole cloves
~ 2 tsp. bouillon, or stock cube to suit the amount of liquid
~ 1/2 tsp. prepared English mustard
~ 1/2-1 tsp. Liquid Smoke (optional, for that "bacony" something)
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1/4 cup grated vegan cheddar cheese
~ 1 slice stale or toasted bread, crumbled

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a deep pie dish with cooking spray.
~ In a saucepan, combine the milk, bouillon, bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves, mustard, and Liquid Smoke (if using). Cover, bring to a boil - you can obviously do this in the microwave as well - and then remove from heat and set aside to "seethe" for at 15-20 minutes.
~ While that's happening, cook the cauliflower in salted, boiling water for about 4 minutes, until just cooked. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.
~ Strain the milk mixture and discard the bay leaf, peppercorns, etc.
~ In another saucepan, melt the margarine over medium-low heat and sauté the chopped leeks for about 2 minutes.
~ Turn the heat to low and add the flour; cook for a minute, and add some of the milk to make a roux. 
~ Add the nutritional yeast, vegan cheddar, and half the milk; raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for a few minutes more. Add the remaining milk and cook another 5 minutes until smooth.
~ Transfer the cooked cauliflower to the baking dish and pour the cheese over it, making sure all the florets are coated.
~ Top with the crumbled bread and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.

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