Cauliflower Gratin from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Cookbook – How a Book Can Breed a Diva

Cauliflower Gratin Thomas Keller Bouchon Cookbook

It’s been five years now. Almost six.

It’s at that point where we don’t really notice each other anymore because we have the exact same routine, sit in the exact same place, maintain the exact same position, day. After. Day.

Recipe for Thomas Keller’s Cauliflower Gratin from Bouchon cookbook is at the end. Scroll down.

Every morning, I make a mind-numbing 90-second commute from the bedroom to my “home office,” an antique desk (read: “garage sale”) shoved behind the couch into a crowded, cramped corner of the living room in the same one bedroom apartment in which we’ve been for the last six years. I grind and churn there for 18, 19, sometimes 20 hours a day, ignoring the tiny world around me, separated from the rest of the room physically by a 24″ monitor. That’s nothing compared to the distance created by time, difference, and indifference.

Sometimes a phone will ring. A device will vibrate. But other than that, it’s almost dead silent.

At the end of every night, I heave myself out of my chair. I used to stand in a final stretch looking toward the sitting area, searching for encouragement, inspiration, motivation, but those have all long since faded. These days, I’ve already dragged myself halfway to the bedroom before I pause for just a moment to look back out of the corner of my eye with something of a pathetic hope. Maybe…?

I always go to bed by myself.

Or worse, with my laptop.

Five years now, almost six, of…nothing. Well, no. Once — maybe twice — in a moment of diet-deprived depression mixed with desperation, I mistook heat from too much wine during a silent dinner for lukewarm passion. There was an awkward grab, confusing hope, clumsy shuffling, hopeful confusion, familiar but unfamiliar expressions, stumbling toward the kitchen, before sobering to the realization that, yes, yet again, the magic wasn’t going to happen.

And that cumbersome, heavy, too complicated copy of the Bouchon cookbook goes right back to where it always sits.

Northwest corner of the marble slab coffee table, barely broken binding visible to me from my desk, though I never see it.

It’s true. I received Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook as a gift (from an ex ex Ex who is amazingly now a good friend – it must be the book) way back when it was released with the same excitement as the buzz surrounding the release of TKell’s most recent cookbook Ad Hoc at Home. The Bouchon cookbook is beautiful, with full-frontal food porn of tied up birds and glossy orgies of roasted vegetables that ooze off the edge of the page, lots of white space around the text, and silky integration of the restaurant’s branding.

When I first opened it, I turned every page. Without reading recipes, I stuck tiny non-committal post-it flags on pictures of foods I wanted to make. Roast chicken! Quiche! Even French words for simple things like a tuna sandwich made them sound too sexy to not make – Tartine de Thon a la Nicoise!

As beautiful as it is though, the book is also big. No, it’s huge. The Bouchon cookbook is so enormous that it rivals the marble slab I currently have in front of the sofa for coffee table status. I could barely haul the thing across the room to the kitchen, let alone make room for it on the countertop in my closet of a kitchen, especially when open to double its width. And even when I mustered the strength and space, I realized that the recipes, even for something as simple as a tuna sandwich, are as complicated as their French pronunciation for a girl from Dey-twah.

The post-it flags fell off, one by one.

But something happened in the last few weeks the broke through the monotony that had settled in after five years. A new cookbook, obsessive search journeys through the night for Ad Hoc recipes, giveaways, signings, appearances, and a blowtorch. A new restaurant, VIP parties, red carpet, and the Kellerati. Buzz. Hype.

That wicked feeling which lay crushed under the weight of a book was coming black. Magic.

I was looking at the Bouchon cookbook like it was brand new to me. The PostIt flags came back out, but this time more careful, placed with real intent, cautious reads before more commitment. Roast Chicken, again. No Quiche this time. Maybe the Moules au Safran et a la Moutarde.

Cauliflower Gratin.
It seemed like an uncomplicated way to ease back into a love affair with Bouchon. Side dishes are simple. Gratins are forgiving. Cauliflower is…

…in the hands of Thomas Keller?

A diva.

Bouchon Cookbook Thomas Keller - Cauliflower Gratin Recipe

The list of ingredients for the gratin is not unusually long, and the directions fit onto one page. However, the recipe is complicated. It requires advance planning. A lot of attention. An entire entourage of high maintenance machines. A luxury suite’s worth of space to accommodate said entourage as well as a double wide book open to the recipe. Just click on the photo. Zoom to 100%. Yes, that’s about how big it is. Print it out, hot glue gun it to your bathtub, then try to put that on your countertop to cook from it.


I was endeared to the use of the oft-wasted tough core of the cauliflower. “Oh, that TKells,” I thought. “He doesn’t like to waste. He must be Korean on the inside.”

Then the rest of the recipe followed and I had to softly wonder, “WHAT THE FOCK?” You need: a cutting board, a knife, a paring knife, a food processor AND a blender (both?!), a saucepan, a large bowl, a slotted spoon, a grater (it’s not stated in the recipe, but I highly doubt that TKells expects you to buy a canister of grated cheese), a gratin dish and a metal skewer. This does not even include basic things you have to use in cooking anything, like measuring cups, spoons, bowls, and couple of ritalin.

I didn’t have a metal skewer. I have a gawdammed digital kitchen scale, but you don’t need one for this recipe. Come on, it’s just a cauliflower gratin.

You also have to turn on your stove top, the oven AND the broiler.

All this for four servings of cauliflower mixed with cheese and breadcrumbs.

It sings.







Cauliflower Gratin — Gratin de Chou-Fleur

from the Bouchon Cookbook by Thomas Keller

1 head (about 1¾ lb) cauliflower
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 Italian parsley sprig
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
Pinch of curry powder
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Comte or Emmentaler cheese
1 tablespoon panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or fine dried bread crumbs

Remove and discard the green leaves from the cauliflower. Cut away the florets, reserving the core. Cut off and reserve the stems. Cut the florets in pieces that measure about 1 inch. (You should have 4-5 cups florets.)

With a paring knife, cut away and discard the tough exterior of the core, then cut the core into small pieces and place them in a food processor, Add the reserved stem trimmings and pulse until very finely shopped, just short of a puree. (You should have about 1 cup; if you don’t, puree enough of the florets to make 1 cup.)

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Season the water with salt and the vinegar. (The acid in the vinegar helps keep the cauliflower white.) Add half the cauliflower florets and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon, drain well, and place in large bowl. Repeat with the remaining florets: blanch, drain, and add to the bowl. Set the saucepan aside. Season the florets with salt to taste.

Add the butter and shallots to the saucepan, place over medium heat, and cook gently for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. Add the minced cauliflower and 2/3 cup water and cook gently for 5 to 6 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated and the cauliflower is tender. If all the water evaporates before the cauliflower is tender, add more.

Add the cream, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Pour the mixture into a blender and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Add the horseradish to the blender and pulse at the lowest speed to release the heat, then increase the speed and puree until smooth. Add the curry powder and blend at high speed for about 15 seconds. Toss the puree with the cauliflower florets adnd season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

Transfer the cauliflower to an 8-inch round gratin dish or individual gratin dishes. The cream should come about halfway up the florets. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day to allow the flavors to mature.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Sprinkle the gratin(s) with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Place in the oven to cook for about 15 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the center is warm. You can test it by inserting a metal skewer into the center of the gratin and touching it to your lower lip: it should feel hot. Remove the gratin(s) from the oven and turn the broiler on. Brown the top of the gratin(s) and serve.

Makes 4 servings

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 miss tiffie November 25, 2009 at 11:26 am

i don’t have his bouchon cookbook, just his new one and french laundry… must get :D and this, i must try :]


2 MyLastBite November 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I bought the Bouchon book when I met Keller at a Gourmet event in NYC in 2005.

And I still haven’t cooked anything out of it YET!


: )


3 Diana November 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm

My former roommate gave me her copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything when she moved out last year. It’s HUGE and she had never used it so figured that I, the boyfriendless one with too much time on my hands, might have a better use for it. Since you know us single gals need to pine away our sorrows with food.

Or not.

But I did consult the book once before making split pea soup. Ironic, since we’ve since parted ways.


4 Sarah J. Gim November 25, 2009 at 1:14 pm

MissTiffie: When you do try the Cauliflower Gratin (or any other recipe from either Bouchon or Ad Hoc at Home), let me know…

MyLastBite: Not even the roast chicken?! That was the first and ONLY thing I made. Cauliflower Gratin is the second thing I’ve had. Hopefully not the last. The Macaroni and Cheese looks good, too.

Diana: Maybe it’s the other way around? The obsession with food, passion for cooking and endless nights dining out…might scare the boys away? Just need to find that one. THE One. Who understands and can keep up. And maybe actually cook for you from that book. :D


5 Trissa November 25, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Same thing happened to me. Sort of. When I first bought bouchon I vowed to make all the recipes but some how found them all too complicated. Lately I’ve found a renewed energy to try more simple looking but complicated recipes if you catch my drift.


6 Yutjangsah November 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Was it good for you too? I thought so. Love, complicated n difficult cauliflower gratin.


7 Sarah J. Gim November 25, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Trissa: I am banning myself from buying the new one, Ad Hoc at Home (I gave a copy away on this blog a few weeks ago, but didn’t get one for myself), until I do a few more from the Bouchon book I already have!

Yuts: It is always good for me.


8 Lauren November 26, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Some suggestions to simplify: Pulse the shallots briefly in the food processor after you’re done with the cauliflower – they’re getting blended anyway so they can be chopped that way. Just don’t turn them into a paste. Also, if you have an immersion blender, the horseradish/cream puree would be easier to make and clean up, you also wouldn’t need to wait for it to cool. Immersion blenders are so much easier than stand blenders, and take up less space on the counter.


9 ila November 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm

i made it with wasabi instead of horseradish – t’was nomtastic :-D


10 Sarah J. Gim November 26, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Lauren: I have heard so much about immersion blenders. I just might have to invest in one this year (though I do know it’s not all that big an investment to begin with)

Ila: Wasabi Cauliflower Gratin! inomthings takes tkells asian!


11 Kevin H November 26, 2009 at 10:38 pm

” A device will vibrate.” lol.


12 Sarah J. Gim November 27, 2009 at 1:08 am

Kevin: My phone is set to ring on low volume. I also have an iPhone and Nokia N97.

And that’s all I will say about that. ;)


13 Sarah@buttered-up October 21, 2010 at 5:50 am

This looks like it was worth all the equipment needed and the time! Who knew cauliflower could be so interesting? Yum!


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