Elevate this classic, cheesy side with bacon this holiday season! It's guaranteed to be a fan-favourite at your festive feast, and is complete with a browned panko topping for that extra-delicious hearty flavour.
12 cups cauliflower florets (3 lbs or 2 small cauliflower)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 freshly cracked black pepper, divided
6 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 sweet onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2-1/2 cups hot milk
1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups of shredded Gruyere cheese (or white cheddar)
Preheat oven to 425F. Place cauliflower onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375F.
Meanwhile, in heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring frequently until crisp, about three to five minutes, spoon 1-1/2 tablespoons of bacon fat into panko and stir well; set aside.
Add onion, two tablespoons of warm water and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 12-14 minutes. (Add water, two tablespoons at a time as needed, and scrape brown bits from bottom of pot).
Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, scraping bottom of pan for one to two minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and cook until mixture thickens, about two minutes more. Remove from heat; whisk in salt, pepper, Dijon and gradually melt cheese in until smooth. Add cauliflower florets and mix to combine. Scrape into 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with panko.
Return to oven and bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes more. Let stand for ten minutes before serving.