Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the ham and cook, 2 minutes. Add the cream, milk, cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add the cauliflower. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs and thyme. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the cauliflower is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.
Tip: Make this a vegetarian side dish by skipping the ham.
This is great...a good use for leftover Thanksgiving/Christmas ham. I tossed the cauliflower with some olive oil and roasted it while I prepared the rest of the dish. For the sauce I made a roux with some flour added to the onions and all whole milk, and I didn't add any salt as the ham was salt-cured. I mixed in the cauliflower last and put it all in the oven just for a few minutes to brown the top. (Actually I could have used more than a whole head of cauliflower as the dish was still very salty.) We ate this with a green salad and rolls. I normally make Spaghetti Carbonara with ham to use up leftovers but I will keep this recipe in mind as well.
This was an excellent weekday meal. Perhaps good enough to serve as a side dish on a special occasion. (But if doing that I would omit the ham.) I did have a few reservations about the recipe. 1st, I don't have goat cheese on hand, so I subbed sharp cheddar and a little feta. 2nd, it takes about an hour cooking time doing it as written. Next time I will precook my cauliflower to speed it up. 3rd, the sauce was runny, so just before service I thickened it with a slurry. (cold water + cornstarch). All-in-all my family loved it and I'll be serving it again. Maybe next time I'll throw in some spinach to add color. Yum.
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