This cauliflower bacon gratin is studded with salty bacon bits in a creamy, cheesy sauce for an ultimate comfort food side dish.
Pork isn’t something I buy very often. In fact, outside of bacon, there’s the occasional pork chop or roast but it’s not on constant rotation like chicken or beef in this house. After spending a day with Jones Dairy Farm at the CIA learning all the ins and outs about pork and what most companies do to produce their pork products, I have to say I’m kinda glad about that. Chicken and steak are one thing, but anything like sausage or ham that gets put into a casing, smoked or made into a ham leaves a lot of room for interpretation and I’m betting the majority of us have no clue what that process looks like most of the time. I sure didn’t.
Did you know that a lot of “smoked” products (think bacon and ham) aren’t even actually smoked but instead put in machine made casings lined with coloring and “flavored” with liquid smoke to look and smell like they have been? Yep.
Did you know a lot of hams are filled with other parts of the pig and not just the actual ham meat? Yep.
Did you know mechanically separated turkey (basically all the leftover parts of the animal shoved through a machine to produce “slime”) is a common thing in a lot of turkey products? Yep again.
Basically, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. So when you see the ham that’s $5 and will feed your family of 4 on the shelf versus the one that might be closer to $12 or $15, you might want to think again before throwing the cheaper one in your cart.
As someone who reads labels pretty thoroughly, buys mostly organic meats and considers myself to be somewhat “educated” in food decisions, I was pretty shocked by a lot of the information I learned last weekend.
The good news is I now know a company that does it right and when I do buy pork, I can make a better decision about it in the grocery store.
Besides the science and history lessons on the company from Rick Lowry, Jones Dairy Farm’s Executive Vice President, we also got to put our kitchen skills to the test with a Chopped style throwdown among 4 teams with our mystery basket of ingredients and the challenge to use Jones Dairy Farm product(s) in each dish. Everything we cooked would end up being our lunch.
Let’s just say this, a lot of bacon and sausage was cooked and consumed that afternoon. So when I saw Bacon Nation (a 125 recipe bacon cookbook) in our swag bags as we left, I was pretty psyched. Ham might not be in my freezer often, but bacon is on the “top 5 must have in stock at all times (milk, eggs, orange juice and butter being the other 4) or the world will end list” around here.
I’ve already made 3 other side dishes, but just had to share this one with you guys today.
1. Who doesn’t love a gratin?
2. It’s cauliflower not potatoes so the cream, butter and cheese only half count.
3. BACON! (and bacon fat!)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 scallions, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9x9 or similar sized baking dish.
- Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook for 6-8 minutes until rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined dish leaving the fat in the sauce pan. Remove one tablespoon of the fat and set aside.
- Add the shallots to the pan over medium heat and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the cauliflower florets, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and let cook for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish with a slotted spoon leaving the broth and shallots in the pan.
- Add the butter to the pan and whisk until melted.
- Add the flour and whisk continuously until fully incorporated and the mixture is thickened.
- Add the heavy cream or milk and whisk again until thickened.
- Add the ricotta and half of the grated cheese and whisk once more until combined.
- Turn the heat off, add the nutmeg, cinnamon, salt & pepper and stir together.
- Pour the mixture over the cauliflower and toss lightly to coat.
- Sprinkle the bacon on top and scatter the remaining cheese on top of the bacon.
- Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat to a small skillet over medium heat.
- Add the breadcrumbs and chopped scallions and toss in the bacon fat, set aside.
- Remove the dish from the oven, uncover and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top.
- Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees.
- Return the baking dish to the oven uncovered and cook for another 5 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
- Remove and serve warm.
Slightly adapted from Bacon Nation by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama
*This isn’t a sponsored post I just wanted to share a fun, educational experience and a bit about a company I think is doing “it” right. Jones Dairy Farm did graciously host the event at the CIA for myself and other bloggers.