Hungarian Baked Cauliflower with Swiss Cheese – Rakkot Karfiol

Hungarian cauliflower casserole-2I have nothing against plain cauliflower, but adding a light gravy and a good quantity of swiss cheese and breadcrumbs gives it a creamy-crispy golden deliciousness that’s pretty great. Also useful as a vegetarian foil to the sauerkraut and all the pork possible casserole I’ve already posted.

Separating the cauliflower out into bite-size pieces is likely to be the most complicated part of the dish – they have to be parboiled too, but since you’ll be at the stove to do the cream gravy anyway, it doesn’t really take that much time.

I made a double batch this last time because there were definitely no leftovers the first time – just people reaching for the pan and looking disappointed. And my mom muttering about it off and on ever since, making hints. This time I still only got one serving leftover but I set the pan next to Mom. Note to self: more cauliflowers or keep it at my end of the table.

Baked Cauliflower with Swiss Cheese

Hungarian cauliflower casserole-1(makes 4 side-dish servings, 2 if you you’re my mother – or double it for a larger casserole)

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
  • 3 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese

Start by setting a large pot of water on to boil, since that won’t happen instantly. While that heats up, cut up the cauliflower into large bite-size flowerets. They will likely break down a bit as you go, so nothing too small – 1.5-2″ if you want to be persnickety.

Hungarian cauliflower casserole-5Hungarian cauliflower casserole-8When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower and set a timer for 10 minutes. You want the cauliflower to be a bit tender but still on the crisp side – definitely not going soft and slightly translucent. Look out for smaller bits that might cook faster and get a strainer ready to pull the cauliflower into. Don’t plan to pour the water down the drain, though, since a bit will go into the gravy. 

Preheat the oven to 375°. Prep the baking pan by melting 1 Tbsp. of the butter and spreading it into an even layer, then sprinkling 1 Tbsp. of the bread crumbs over that. Chop the parsley and grate the cheese if you haven’t already. Mix 2 Tbsp. of the grated cheese with the remaining bread crumbs and set aside.

Now melt another 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a saucepan over low heat. When it’s completely melted, add the flour and parsley and stir until bubbly. Mix in a ladle-ful of cauliflower boiling water (about 1/2 cup) and stir until the sauce thickens. Add the milk gradually and the remaining cheese and stir until melted thoroughly.  Note: milk will froth up when it boils, so go at a low temperature. I had to move to a different dish to stir in the cheese or risk a big mess.

Layer the drained cauliflower over the butter and bread crumbs in the baking dish. Pour sauce over the cauliflower and then top with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Dot with the last 1 Tbsp. of butter.

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Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

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