Today we are back to the fridge section at Trader Joe’s. Several times a year they clear out a space for seasonal items and Thanksgiving is the grand daddy of seasonal cooking! Usually, they make space in only one section, but this year they are going overboard and stocking the fridge section with a good selection of turkeys and side dishes. In my Trader Joe’s they have stocked several ready to eat side dishes that you could possibly serve at a Thanksgiving dinner. I bought a stack of them and will review them over the next couple of days. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention last year, but I don’t remember these dishes last year. They sure looking enticing on the shelf!
Here is what Trader Joe’s says on their website about the Cauliflower Gratin: “This is elegant comfort food couched as a vegetable dish. Seriously, even the most veggie-wary will not be able to help themselves. We start with fresh cauliflower that is gently roasted to reveal its natural nuttiness. Then we toss it with garlic, cream, milk and Gruyere cheese. Topped with a sprinkling of crushed seasoned croutons, the cauliflower is baked until golden and crispy along the edges. Simply heat to create a laudable side that will elicit vocal approval. Each 14 ounce tray is $3.99.”
All of the prepared dishes have both microwave and conventional oven directions and seeing that the plastic dish they come in is oven proof, I opted for the oven method. Things just cook better in the oven than microwave for the most part and all you have to do is peel back a corner and bake them at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
After a while, I could see the gooey, rich sauce bubbling away in through the oven door. You are supposed to keep the film on the top the whole way, but I pulled it off and stuck it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to kind of crisp up the topping.
I pulled it out of the oven and it smelled fantastic. I could smell the roasted cauliflower and the garlicky cheese and hint of the herbed bread topping. Scooped out a generous helping and put it on my plate and the cheese oozed out of it. It tasted quite a bit of Gruyere and cauliflower, which doesn’t have a ton of flavor but everything comes together here. The topping stood up to heating in the oven and didn’t fall apart There was fair amount of garlic mixed in the cheese. I really liked the flavors here. My wife said the cauliflower was a bit mushy and I can see that. She likes here gratins a little more al dente then this. I agree. I followed the directions to the letter and I have to agree the cauliflower was over cooked and slightly mushy. But I really like the flavors here. While I wouldn’t serve this at Thanksgiving dinner, it made a great side dish for a weeknight dinner.
Also for you vegetarians out there, this is completely meat free and is very filling and could make a meal in itself if you were inclined. Not vegan though. Damn that cheese, I can’t live without it!
Wine Pairing: On the cheap side I would pair with the 2010 Green Fin White Wine, on the slightly more expensive side (if available in your TJs) Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.
I am going to rate this 7 Bells! Points off for mushy cauliflower.