Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Taking a Gamble on Cauliflower -- Recipe a Winner Thanks to Mesa Grill

One of the more renowned restaurants I ate at in Las Vegas was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. The grill was recommended to me by food-loving friends who had eaten their way around the strip and assured me the food was very special there.

Rose and Jerry were right. Gary and I loved the grouper and shrimp cerviche (at right), the vegetarian chile rellano stuffed with acorn squash, cheese and fig jam served in a sweet-hot sauce (above) and the grilled mahi mahi with a salsa and yet another fruity sweet hot sauce. (Warning, if you don’t like fruit-flavored hot pepper sauces, this is not the restaurant for you.) The dessert, a cajeta cheese tart, was so amazing we ate the whole thing before I remembered to take a photo.

One of the dishes the restaurant, located in the Caesar’s Palace hotel and casino, that wowed us was baked cauliflower and green pepper, served to us in an adorable, minature Staub casserole dish. The mixture was wonderful with the occasional punch of the pepper smoothed by the creamy sauce and the cauliflower adding a the slightest hint of crunch and earthiness.

That creamy dish was the inspiration for a cauliflower gratin I made just a few days after we returned home. My version is heartier with much less cheese and cream and, by using fresh roasted poblano peppers, packs a bit more heat and spice. I also baked mine in a gratin dish instead of a covered casserole so there were lots of nice browned bits to provide textural contrast to the cauliflower. (The photo on the left is of my version of the dish)

Cauliflower and Poblano Chile “Jackpot” Gratin
Oil or spray for pan
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 poblano or Anaheim chile, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into strips about ¼ inch by ½ inch
About 1 ½ cups of white sauce made with butter, flour and milk (I used whole wheat flour and skim milk) and with 1/3 to ½ cup of grated white strong cheddar and ¼ grated parmesan cheese stirred in.
¼ to ½ cup bread crumbs (homemade or panko-style)
¼ grated parmesan cheese
Paprika to taste
1 teaspoon butter (optional), cut into little pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or oil gratin pan or other approximately 9”x11” pan and set aside. Steam cauliflower florets until just tender. While cauliflower is cooking, heat oil or butter in a sauté pan and sauté diced onion until wilted, add garlic and sauté until almost brown. Add in red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sauté another minute or so. Set aside.

When the cauliflower is tender, drain well and combine in the gratin pan with sautéed mixture and roasted chile strips. Stir in cheese and white sauce and mix until well combined. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, followed by the parmesan cheese and paprika. Dot with butter pieces, if desired. Bake 30-45 minutes until top is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Serves 2-3 as a main course with a grain or 4-5 as a side dish.

Notes: I served it on top of rough and hearty buckwheat grouts (known as kasha),which were a good foil to the dish’s flavors and texture. Please leave me a comment if you need directions on how to make a white sauce or roast peppers and I’ll add directions for those steps. You can substitute canned green chiles for the fresh, but the dish will lose the roasted flavor. Feel free to add more or less cheese or white sauce. I was aiming for a version that cut back a bit on the fat and creaminess of the original while adding more textural and flavor elements.

Update:  Here is a link to Flay's version of this recipe.
This post is part of Sweetnicks weekly Antioxidant Rich Foods Round up. Click here to view.


Catherine said...

What a fabulous recipe! This is so my kind of thing. I'm glad to have found your blog through Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday event.

dining tables said...

I think this recipe is really something so delicious! I am definitely going to try this one.