My father, a proud British man and a pretty decent plain-cook in his own right, had an absolute passion for making and eating Cauliflower Cheese Pie (which is of course a casserole, not a pie, but that was its name and that’s what I shall continue to call it). He also had quite a preference for Potato Cheese Pie — not to be confused with scalloped potatoes, both of which will likely be future recipe posts — among many other cheese-based casseroles that made up a large part of my family’s dinners as a child.
In any case, this recipe is an homage to my beloved late father’s done-it-so-often-who-needs-a-recipe casseroles of 30+ years ago. It’s a somewhat more “grown up” version of what we ate when I was a kid, mainly due to more in-depth knowledge of professional cooking methods as well as access to higher-quality ingredients. But the casserole dishes in which I make my Cauli-Cheese Pie are the very same ones he used in the way-back. So there’s that.
Miss you, Dad.
Cauliflower Cheese Pie/Casserole
Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 7 minutes | Bake: 20-30 minutes | Yield: 8 servings
- 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 4 tbsp butter, plus 1 tbsp for greasing casserole dish
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 cups 2% milk or light cream, heated until very warm but not boiling
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1½ cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- ½ cups fresh Parmesan, grated (or substitute another ½ cup of cheddar, like I did in the photo)
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in middle of oven. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with butter and set aside.
- Steam cauliflower in a large pot with steamer basket until just barely tender, about 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander and set aside.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk until incorporated into the butter (this is a roux: pronounced “roo”). Cook the roux, stirring frequently with the whisk, for 2 minutes or until roux has starts to darken slightly.
- Gradually add the hot milk to the flour and butter mixture while whisking vigorously to work out any lumps. Continue cooking the sauce, stirring, until thickened and bubbly.
- Add salt, pepper, mustard and cheese and continue cooking, stirring, until the cheese has melted. Taste and adjust seasoning at this point.
- Add the well-drained cauliflower to the buttered casserole dish and pour the sauce overtop; stir cauliflower around lightly and gently to cover as many areas as possible with sauce.
- Combine the Panko breadcrumbs with the paprika, salt and pepper, and the last 2 tablespoons melted butter; toss to blend thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the seasoned crumbs over the cauliflower mixture, and scatter Parmesan and parsley overtop.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and topping is lightly browned. Serve hot.