My beloved doesn’t cook that much. I am a kitchen hog, and will happily usher her out of the room while I create culinary masterpieces. She’ll happily be ushered. Let the goon do all the work. But just because she doesn’t, don’t mean she can’t. When TLC picks a saucepan up, the results are always delicious. Last night, after I returned bone deep weary from a working weekend, she put together the best cauliflower cheese I have ever tasted.
I think the main difference between the way TLC and I cook is her insistence on simplicity. Her food is never fancied up. She lets her ingredients shine. I have learned not to suggest additions to her recipes. She knows it’ll taste good. There’s no need to foof things up without good reason.
Her mastery of the simple cheese sauce is a thing of wonder to me. I’ve never been able to get it right. Patience is the key. She always spends twice as long as I do on the sauce. Slow and gentle heat, gradually bringing the roux together into a glossy, flavoursome mass. It’s a Zen moment, and her focus is absolute.
The dish, then. A good cauliflower is simply steamed for a few minutes, making sure it keeps a firm texture. Meanwhile, the white sauce is made, and a mix of mature cheddar and gruyere is melted in, with enough left over to sprinkle over the top. In a separate pan leeks, mushrooms and a few rashers of chopped up bacon are sauteed until soft and golden. The steamed cauli and cooked veg and bacon are piled into a deep heat-proof dish, and then the sauce is stirred through. The reserved cheese goes on top. The whole lot is popped under a hot grill until the cheese is patched with brown and sizzling.
Done. Plate. Fill your face.
The flavours just shine. The cauli still has bite, the sauce is creamy and cheesy without that in-your-face wallop that you often get from mature cheddar. The leeks, mushrooms and bacon add deep savoury notes that bring the whole dish together. If you were feeling greedy, some bread and butter on the side just to mop up the last of the sauce would be welcome.
It was just what I needed after a long day at the coalface. With a cold beer to wash it down, I was a very happy bunny.
I’m happy that TLC doesn’t get in the kitchen that often to cook. Because when she does, I can be sure that the end result is always a treat.