If you are having a dinner party and need an elegant and easy side dish to complement quail, duck or a hearty stew, this is it. The recipe was featured many years ago in Bouquet de France, a Gourmet magazine column written by Samuel Chamberlain. It makes an appearance in Gourmet Today, the new cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl.
Although this dish is called a mousse, it is meant to be served hot. It is very easy to make, just make sure that you pour water that has come to a boil in the pan or it will throw your timing off. That's it! I also may have added slightly more than the 1/4 cup of parmesan on top before I broiled it and was glad I did. Make sure, also, it is properly salted or it will be bland and we don't want that!
I could not find my small souffle dish so I used a small Corning casserole that was perfect.
This is definitely something you can make early in the afternoon and warm at a low temperature right before you serve. It holds well enough to be able to transfer to a silver platter for serving. A sprig of parsley on the side should make for a nice presentation.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
5 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower (1/2 medium head)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 cup)
Special equipment: a 1-qt soufflé dish
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter soufflé dish, then line bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper and butter paper. Chill dish until ready to fill.
Cook cauliflower with 2 teaspoons salt in a 3- to 4-quart pot of boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain cauliflower well in a colander, then puré in a food processor until smooth.
Melt butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add white pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool béchamel, 5 minutes.
Whisk cauliflower puré into béchamel, then add beaten eggs, whisking until combined well. Transfer mixture to soufflé dish and put dish in a 13- by 9-inch roasting pan, then add enough boiling-hot water to pan to reach halfway up side of soufflé dish. Bake until center of mousse is firm to the touch and mousse begins to pull away from side of dish, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove mousse from oven and water bath. Position oven rack so that top of mousse will be 4 to 6 inches from broiler, then preheat broiler.
Run a knife around edge of soufflé dish, then place an ovenproof platter on top of soufflé dish and invert mousse onto platter. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top of mousse and broil until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes.
All Photos by Lindaraxa