Sunday, October 17, 2010

Merci, Julia, Merci

I honestly think that the application of the term "kitchen luminary and amazing home cook" cannot be applied to anyone better than Julia Child. She brought French cooking to the American and British masses (like I needed to tell you that!), and incorporated a style, grace and manner of teaching that endears her still to cooks and chefs worldwide. She also has the distinction of being the only cookbook author - indeed, the only chef - that made my mom change her entire approach to a dish that she's been making and we've been eating for years: cauliflower and cheese sauce. I personally have nothing against mom's recipe - really, it is delicious and probably won't be replaced anytime soon in our home. But Julia's recipe is not simply cauliflower and cheese sauce. And it certainly isn't the same "lighter" option for a dinner side that mom's Weight Watchers - age casserole is.

No way. It's Choufleur et Choux Broccoli a la Mornay Gratinee. There's butter. And milk. And bechamel made into sauce Mornay. With cheese... lots and lots of two types of cheese. There simply would be no luxury, no French, without her trademark butter. Why? Because it's Julia. You've seen bloggers, chefs and home cooks alike have marvelled at her inclusion of anything rich or decadent to dishes without batting an eye, never apologizing, never so much as glancing at her own waistline or the dietary fads that faded in and out. The later editions of her cookbooks refuse to bend to the will of the new, "health-conscious" cook, proudly displaying each and every ingredient as it should be, explaining each element's function, and asserting that yes, you do need to add that butter. It will be all right.

So when I gave my mom a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1, the one used by another, slightly more famous, blogger) for Christmas last year, I wasn't sure how my weight-conscious mom would use it. It was only because of the movie that my mom began paying attention to her cooking at all, but after we saw it together she knew she wanted a copy of that book, and thanks to Natashya's generous giveaway last year, I was able to actually give her something other than nylons for the holidays! She's been reading it word-for-word for a while now, and other than her promise to make Boeuf Bourguignon with me, and a (hopefully) passing fancy with aspics, I had no clue what she was mentally earmarking until we were at the grocery store yesterday. Along with a gloriously sinful (or saintly, to classic cuisine) addition of extra butter and tons of piquant cheese to the classic Béchamel base, Julia also includes the crucial step to a truly remarkable white sauce: warm the milk you add to the roux. In that minor detail, my mom's experience in concocting this vegetable side transformed from simply making cheese sauce into crafting a Mornay sauce. Add a head of broccoli, scale up the sauce a tad and - BAM - you have the favourite food on the birthday boy's (my stepbrother's) buffet table.

This recipe was, in my mom's words: "so decadent it is like eating melted velvet. Julia knows what she's talking about". And no kidding: who else would declare the undeniable truth that "life itself is the proper binge"?

Choufleur et Choux Broccoli a la Mornay Gratinee
Serves 10 veggie lovers!
1 tbsp salt, for blanching water
1 large head broccoli, chopped into florets
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets

--Sauce Mornay--
1/4 cup salted butter
6 tbsp flour
2 cups evaporated milk, heated to a near boil (Julia would use whole milk or better, half-and-half. We had evaporated 2% on hand)
1 cup 1% milk, heated to a near boil (see above comment on milk)
1/3 cup fresh-grated Swiss cheese (Gruyère is fantastic)
1/3 cup fresh-grated Parmesan (the real stuff, guys!)
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne

3 tbsp panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh-grated Swiss cheese (again, Gruyère if you can)
2 tbsp melted, salted butter, plus more for baking dish

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt.
  2. Add broccoli and cook 4 minutes, remove to an ice water bath to shock then drain completely.
  3. Add cauliflower to the water and cook 6 minutes. Remove to an ice water bath to shock and then drain completely.
  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring continuously, for 2-3 minutes (it should not colour). Remove from heat.
  3. Pour in hot milk all at once and immediately begin whisking vigorously, incorporating all of the roux from the sides, bottom and edges of the pan.
  4. Return to medium-low heat and stir until the sauce comes to a boil. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat and mix in the cheeses, nutmeg and cayenne until sauce is smooth.
  1. Preheat oven to 375F and grease an 9 x 13 roasting casserole with butter.
  2. Spread 1/3 of the hot Mornay sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  3. Pour blanched vegetables on top of the sauce and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. Pour remaining sauce overtop in an even layer. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese, then drizzle with melted butter*.
  5. Place in the upper third of the preheated oven and bake 35 minutes. Serve immediately.
*Note: If preparing ahead of time, cover with waxed paper and refrigerate. Bake an extra 5-10 minutes, until hot and browned.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 236.5
Total Fat: 13.8 g
Cholesterol: 41.3 mg
Sodium: 232.5 mg
Total Carbs: 19.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 11.4 g


  1. My sister in law just puts velveeta on everything... I like your version much much better.

  2. Love this stuff! Had some at breakfast yesterday morning - Yum!

  3. oh wow this looks amazing a little bit of butter doesn't hurt


Thanks for the feedback!