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Don’t wait for a winter dinner party to make this pure-comfort dish. It’s a rich, briny take on a traditional gratin: a creamy Mornay sauce for the cauliflower with a crunchy breadcrumb topping. It’ll be a wonderful addition to a summer meal, particularly if it’s served at room temperature. In fact, it’s probably hearty enough to be a “large plate” if you pair it with a generous selection of hot and sweet pickles. (In which case, it’ll probably make just 6 servings.)

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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large cauliflower head (about 3 pounds), cored and cut into small florets
  • ½ cup thinly sliced pitted green olives
  • 1 large shallot, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole or low-fat milk
  • ½ cup finely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 ounce)


  1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2. Pour the oil into a 14-inch oval gratin dish or into a 9 x 13-inch broilerproof baking dish. Add the cauliflower, olives, and shallot. Toss well so everything’s coated. Bake until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.
  3. Use oven mitts to move the oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler. Heat that broiler.
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste, then whisk in the milk in a slow, steady, thin stream. Continue whisking over the heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Stir in the Gruyère, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower mixture in the baking dish.
  5. Mix the panko and Parmesan in a small bowl. Sprinkle the panko mixture over the casserole, coating it completely. Broil until browned and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the breadcrumbs. Cool for 10 minutes before dishing up with a large spoon.