Cauliflower Gratin with Queso Cotija

This chile pepper is often mislabeled ‘Pasilla’, which is a different pepper entirely.It is one of the most popular chiles in Mexico and has won the appreciation of many a chef worldwide because of the superior flavor it has over regular bell peppers.

They have a tough outer skin that usually requires roasting and peeling before use. These very large chile peppers are most popular in chiles rellenos recipes, but cooking with these as a substitute for bell peppers in any recipe will enhance the flavor.

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2 heads cauliflower (3 pounds total), rinsed
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp. cayenne
salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 pound fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into strips
12 oz. cotija cheese, shredded


In a 6-8 quart pan over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim and discard the leaves from the cauliflower; separate the heads into florets. Slice the florets 1/4″ thick. Add the sliced cauliflower to boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well.

In a glass measure, stir together the cream and cayenne. Line the bottom of a shallow 3-1/2 to 4 quart baking dish with a 1/4 of the cauliflower slices. Drizzle a 1/4 of the cream mixture over the cauliflower. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and top evenly with a 1/4 of the poblano chile strips and cotija cheese. Repeat three times to layer gratin, ending with cheese.

Bake in a 450F oven until the cheese is browned and the cauliflower is tender when pierced, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: Makes 8-10 servings.

Recipe from Sunset Magazine, November 2004.