The halls have been decked and the shopping is more than half done ( a new record for me). Mama D’s Kitchen will soon be alive with holiday goodies both sweet and savory. Before I get started on all the wonders that will find their way onto trays and into baskets and jars, I thought I’d share one more recipe with you.
I’m sure your Thanksgiving leftovers are long gone (if not it’s probably time to clean out the fridge) but, another army of holiday meals lies ahead and this recipe would transform some of the leftovers into a delicious and slightly healthy supper. I give you Ham, Turkey, and Cauliflower Au Gratin.
The inspiration for this came from my teen years. My mother and I lived within walking distance of the Oak Park shopping area on Lake Street. We loved to browse in the shops and occasionally buy something from the sale racks. We would stop for dinner at a restaurant on Lake Street. Sadly, I don’t remember the name of it. All I remember was that they served a Ham and Turkey Au Gratin that was to die for.
I felt so sophisticated when it arrived at the table, bubbling and golden brown in an individual gratin dish. The cheese sauce was thick and rich and the slices of ham and turkey were juicy. I always burned my tongue because I couldn’t wait to taste it.
I’ve made versions of this through the years, but this time, I think I came up with a true winner. The ham and turkey actually came from the deli, but this would be a fitting finale for your holiday meats. I added cauliflower because I was also going for a “not macaroni” and cheese dish. An inspired rummage through the refrigerator resulted in the addition of beer to the cheese sauce. I actually made the cheese sauce with 1% milk. It cut back on the fat and thanks to the aforementioned beer, no flavor was sacrificed. I used Extra Sharp Cheddar because it packs a lot of punch in a modest amount ( about 2 cups for at least 6 generous servings). Every cheese sauce needs a little mustard, a dash of Worcestershire, and a splash of hot sauce, so I added all of the above.
While the dish from years ago didn’t have one, I wanted the extra crunch of a Panko crumb topping. A bit of grated Parmesan added to the wonderfulness of that crust.A bake in the oven resulted in a golden crust, bubbly sauce, and the perfect marriage of ham, turkey, and cauliflower.
This dish took me back to a simpler time, yet paid a bit of respect to my healthier habits of the present.
A note here on using cauliflower as a starch alternative: This vegetable is a veritable blank canvas and because of its color and texture can make a credible stand in for potatoes or pasta… it’s all in how you cut and cook it. It is considered a super food by many and as the Recipe Archive will show has been a guest in the Kitchen on several occasions.
Let the holidays begin (or should I say continue) and don’t forget to take some time to reflect and be thankful for all the year has given you, and if it wasn’t all that you dreamed, remember, you get to start over very soon.