¼–½ cup grated mozzarella or gruyere cheese- (plus 3 Tablespoons for the top -optional)
¼ cup grated hard flavorful cheese like Parmesan or pecorino
¼–½ cup crispy bacon bits, or crispy pancetta
¼ cup vegan “bacon bits”
bread crumb topping ( see notes)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice head of cauliflower into 1 inch slices and chop into bite size pieces.
Saute onion over med- high heat in 1-2 T olive oil until tender, stirring often, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, turn heat to med and sauté until fragrant and golden. Take your time here and make sure onion and garlic are deeply golden.
Add the chopped cauliflower and ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer. Turn heat to med low, cover, steam 10-12 minutes, until cauliflower is fork tender. Cook off ( uncovered) or drain any excess water.
While cauliflower is steaming, make Sage Bechamel Sauce. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir until butter just begins to become golden and becomes nutty and fragrant. Add flour. Stir and cook flour for at least 1 minute. Whisk in ½ C milk making sure to whisk all the flour from the corners and sides of the pot. Add another ½ C milk, whisking well. When thickened, add final cup of milk, sage, spices, salt and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and just comes to a simmer. Turn heat to low and add cheese and whisk until smooth. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper.
Decide what you want to bake the cauliflower gratin in. Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet, 8 x 11 inch baking dish or 6-8 small ramekins. Pour a little of Sage Bechamel in the bottom of the grease baking dish and top with cauliflower (be sure to drain any excess water first). Pour the remaining béchamel sauce over top.
Top with optional crispy bacon (or vegan bacon bits) and few sage leaves and a little more cheese (optional) or bread crumbs (optional). You could refrigerate overnight at this point if making ahead. ( Be sure to bring to room temp before baking. ) Bake uncovered in the oven, uncovered until lightly browned and bubbly, about 25-35 minutes.
To make bread the crumbs, mix ¼ cup bread crumbs with ¼ cups gruyere cheese and a pinch salt. Toss with just enough olive oil ( or melted butter) to lightly coat. About 2 tablespoons.
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