Monday, April 9, 2012

Missing Mom

Easter marked the second holiday spent without my mom.    We opted for a small family dinner since Peanut isn’t old enough to get much out of an Easter basket (although he did enjoy playing with the couple of things he got).  Without the expectation of a traditional meal, we decided to go for surf and turf instead, with me pan grilling steaks and jumbo shrimp and adding a couple of veggie sides.  One was a new recipe for a cauliflower gratin.  Not sure of its origination, but it was tasty.

I did keep somewhat to tradition, however, and made my mom’s dinner rolls, which have been gracing our family meals for ages.  I was happy to find it tucked into a recipe file of hers.  They’re quicker than most yeast roll recipes I’ve run across, needing only 10 minutes of rest time and another 30 minute rise.  So, in just over an hour, you can have hot rolls on your dinner table that are by far better than anything you’d find in a store.
So, we had a little bit of the old combined with a little bit of the new, which seemed just perfect.  Just wish Mom had been there to share.

Cauliflower Gratin with Almonds

¾ cup half and half
½ cup whole roasted almonds with skins on, plus ¼ cup whole almonds
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Gouda
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
One 2-lb head of cauliflower, cored and cut into 1” thick steaks
2 Tbs olive oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp paprika

Heat oven to 400°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the cauliflower slices evenly on it, drizzling with the olive oil.  Roast in oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or just until beginning to turn color.  Remove from oven and place in an oblong baking dish.  Reduce oven temperature to 375°.

While cauliflower is roasting, bring half and half to just under a simmer.  Add to a blender or food processor, along with ½ cup of the roasted almonds.  Process until almonds are ground, then allow the mixture to sit.

When cauliflower has finished roasting, add the butter to a medium saucepan and heat over medium.  When butter begins to bubble, add onions and sauté just until translucent.  Transfer the onions to the baking dish with the cauliflower, leaving as much butter in the saucepan as you can.  Return the pan to heat and sprinkle in the flour.  Cook and stir until the roux becomes slightly darker (a ‘blond’ roux).  Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Slowly stir in milk, stirring briskly so no lumps form.  Continue to cook until mixture begins to thicken, adding more milk if it becomes too thick.  Add the cheese and stir until melted.  Pour the mixture over the cauliflower, moving the vegetables around a bit so that the cheese mixture has a chance to spread throughout.  Sprinkle with paprika and the remaining almonds.

Return to oven and allow to bake for 20 minutes.

* * *

Dinner Rolls

2 to 2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 envelope Rapid Rise yeast
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
¼ cup water
2 Tbs butter

Heat the milk, water and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, just until the mixture begins to steam.  Meanwhile, combine ¾ cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir to combine.  Slowly pour in the milk mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add 1¼ cups flour to the mixture and mix with a dough hook attachment for 5 minutes.  If dough seems too sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup flour.  Mix an additional 3 minutes.  Cover and allow to rest 10 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces.  Shape into balls and place in a greased pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°.  Place pan in oven and bake until rolls are golden, about 20 minutes.

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