It’s always a great day when I can say that there is a new Smitten Kitchen cookbook out in the world…
I don’t think there is anyone left on the planet who doesn’t know and love Deb Perelman, one of the original food bloggers (she started SK in 2006!) and who nails the kinds of recipes that people want to both cook and eat. (It’s harder than it looks!) Her recipes are that rare find: creative without being gimmicky. (Remember her Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats?) From memory, I could right now run through a catalog of Smitten Kitchen recipes I’ve depended on for a decade and a half — both sweet and savory — and her third cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, published last week, is devoted to “recipes for your forever file,” everything from breakfast salads to snacking nuts to family-style desserts to a spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner she suggests as the centerpiece for a Friday night rituals with friends. Take a peek at what I’m talking about.
Slumped Parmesan Frittata made entirely in the oven (instead of starting on the stovetop)…
Caramelized Cinnamon French Toast made with “custard-soaked, cinnamon-sugar-dipped baguettes” (good grief!)…
“Turkey Meatloaf for Skeptics” (look at that glaze)…
Gluten-free Chocolate Dulce Puddle Cake…
And cocktails and mocktails like Salt and Pepper Limeades. Right? Don’t you want to make everything you see? Lucky us, we can start with this Cauliflower Cheese Baked Potato. I’ll let Deb tell you all about it.
Cauliflower Cheese Baked Potatoes
From Deb: “I think it is criminal that cauliflower cheese — cauliflower florets draped with a sharp cheddar cheese sauce spiked with a bit of cayenne, then baked in the oven until bronzed and bubbly — is not as much of a thing, or really a thing at all, in the United States. I first encountered this delicacy in the U.K. many years ago and have been doing my best PR for it since then — with only moderate success, judging from restaurant menus. (I even tried to make the argument that it was low-carb mac-and-cheese, but few were enchanted.) While we’re at it, can we start calling baked potatoes “jacket potatoes”? It sounds much more dapper, doesn’t it? Here we snug these two very hearty and cozy things tightly in a baking dish for the kind of dead-of-winter comfort food some days require. Don’t even look at this recipe in July — so rich, so monochrome — but it makes absolute sense the first day the puddles freeze. Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side.” Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman.
4 baking potatoes, russet or Idaho (each about 8 ounces)
1 large (2½-to-3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper or ground cayenne
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 medium leek, white and light-green parts, halved lengthwise, cleaned, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons (1 ounce) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder, or ¾ teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups milk, whole or low-fat
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (about 5½ ounces, total) grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, for garnish (optional)
Bake the potatoes: Heat the oven to 450°F. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, and rub them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the potatoes on the oven rack, and bake for 1 hour, or until tender in the center when pierced with a skewer.
While the potatoes bake, prepare the cauliflower: Coat a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the cauliflower florets, and toss to coat. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes total, tossing once, until nicely browned at the edges. Let the cauliflower cool while the potatoes finish.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sliced leek, and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the flour, and whisk to combine; cook for 1 minute to ensure you get rid of the floury taste. Add the mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne or few grinds of black pepper, and stir to combine. Drizzle in the milk in a thin, steady stream, whisking the whole time so that no lumps form. Season with salt, and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring with a spoon; the sauce should begin to thicken. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1¼ cups grated cheddar, a handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding the next. Taste the sauce, and adjust seasonings if needed. Add the roasted cauliflower, and stir until it’s coated with sauce.
Assemble potatoes: Once the potatoes are ready, slice them in half lengthwise, and, using a pot holder, arrange them snugly, cut side up, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Season the cut sides with salt and pepper, and use the tip of a knife to score them in a grid, cutting ½ to 1 inch into the potato. Spoon the cauliflower cheese sauce over each potato. Sprinkle them with the remaining cheddar, and return them to the oven to cook until the cauliflower topping is browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
To serve: Scatter with chives, if desired. Serve with sour cream.