Cauliflower Au Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin Back


  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups cream
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock (preferably concentrated)
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 inch florets
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated good quality Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon leaves, roughly chopped (use dried if you can’t find fresh)



I’m a firm believer that if you add cheese to anything it makes it taste better especially vegetables.  Cauliflower I think is one of those great fall veggies that when mixed with cheese, sauce, and the crunch of toasted bread crumbs is more of a comfort food that makes you feel good inside.

Dice the onion into a fine dice and add along with into a 2-quart saucepan with a splash of Olive oil and sweat (until softened) and then add the chicken stock bay leaf and cream.  To make this dish vegetarian you can use vegatable stock instead of chicken stock and for a lower fat version, use milk (whole or reduced fat) instead of cream.  Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook without boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve or strainer. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Steam the cauliflower until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange the cauliflower in a shallow 2-quart casserole dish and set aside as you prepare the sauce.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the flour to the pan and stir to form a blond roux. (Do not allow the mixture to brown.)  Add the simmered, strained cream/chicken stock to the pan and whisk until smooth.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened, smooth, and creamy. Combine the grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.  Remove the pan from the heat and add ½ of the grated cheese mix, stirring until melted.  Strain the sauce and pour evenly over the cauliflower.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch sauté pan and add the bread crumbs. Toss well to coat. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and the chopped Tarragon. Sprinkle the remaining cheese mix and the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the cauliflower and bake until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Enjoy!

Chef Bill

Too Brine or not to Brine, A Turkey recipe for success!

English: A Thanksgiving turkey that had been s...

A Thanksgiving turkey that had been soaked for 8 hours in a brine of water, salt, brown sugar, cut and squeezed lemons and oranges, and chopped onion. Roasted in the oven in a roasting pan, for nearly 4 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best way to get flavorful poultry, regardless of how it is prepared, is to start with a brine. I began brining turkeys a few years ago, and now it’s a process I swear by. I cook two turkeys each year for Thanksgiving (our family demands lots of take home leftovers). One is deep fried in peanut oil, and the other is marinated overnight (in buttermilk, Franks hot sauce, tequila and lime juice) and barbequed on a rotisserie grill. I brine each prior to cooking.

Brining adds moisture and flavor to poultry (and pork) and helps to keep it from drying out.  It’s a salty sweet aromatic liquid for marinating poultry meat in order to enhance flavor and moistness when cooking.  The sugar works to counteract the flavor of the salt and maintain the flavor of the turkey.  A turkey can be a serious investment in time so you want to make sure it is perfect, especially if you’re entertaining. Whether grilled, smoked, fried, or roasted, your turkey should be brined first.

Ice Water 1 Gallon
Kosher salt 3 Cups
Brown Sugar 1 Cup
Fresh Apple Juice 2 Cup
Orange Juice 2 Cup
2 bay leaves  
Smashed garlic cloves ½ Cup
Black peppercorns 2 Tbls
Fresh Rosemary 4 Sprigs
Fresh Oregano 4 Sprigs
Thyme 4 Sprigs
Parsley ½ bunch
Lemons halved and squeezed into mix 2

To properly brine a turkey you need to start the night before you plan to cook. You will need at least 8 hours, a container large enough to hold your turkey and enough brine to cover it, and enough room to refrigerate it or keep in cool (below 40 degrees). A large stainless steel stock pot or even a 5 gallon clean plastic bucket make excellent containers. Whatever container you choose, the turkey must have enough room to be turned, so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bag for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe resealable bags that are great for brining.

The turkey should be cleaned out, completely thawed, and should not be a self-basting or Kosher turkey. Self-basting and Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will make your brined turkey too salty. Make sure to check the ingredients on the turkey before you decide to brine. A fresh, “natural” turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work just as well.

For the brine; combine all ingredients except ice water in a pot and bring to a boil. Using fruit juices in a brine you add sweetness and a light acidity that tenderizes and permeates the meat you are brining.  Simmer for 20 min to dissolve salt, sugar and let ingredients get happy together. Add to ice water to cool. Marinate poultry for 8 to 12 hrs and then prep for cooking. I usually do this the night before and let the turkey sleep in the brine overnight.

If you don’t have room in the refrigerator, try a cooler. Make sure it’s big enough to hold your turkey and can contain both the bird with the brine in a bag and ice. The cooler will not only help keep the turkey cool, but provides the option to brine your turkey without taking up space in the refrigerator. If the weather is cool and not freezing, you can put the whole thing in the garage or outside until you are ready to cook the turkey. Just make sure it’s sealed to keep any critters form enjoying your dinner before you do.

After about 8 to 12 hours, remove the bird from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surface inside and out. If you don’t get the brine rinsed of thoroughly, you will get a very salty bird. Discard the brine and cook the turkey per your recipe. You will notice the second you start to carve your turkey that the brining has helped it retain moisture. The first bite will sell you on brining turkeys forever and after you’ve tried this, you will want to brine all your poultry.

Chef Bill

“Foster Youth Education Fund, my personal experience”

Today I would like to divert from the usual rant and share something with you.  Last night I catered a charity event that I am on the board for and have a very personal experience with.  As some of may know I recently owned a restaurant in Cameron Park and became a Chef a few years ago, thus the title of this blog.  The Charity is “Foster Youth Education Fund” a non-profit organization created and ran totally by volunteers to generate and disburse education grants to emancipating foster youth.  This is personal because I grew up in the foster care system from age 6 through 18.  It took me 12 years to complete my degree at CSUS, but I did complete it, so I know from personal experience how difficult it is for someone who has no support financially and in many cases no role models to guide them.   

Today in California when youth in foster care graduate from high school or turn eighteen they are on their own.  At that time they lose their housing, financial support and often the guidance of a caring adult. In Sacramento, approximately 250 youth each year experience this situation. Of these youth, one-fifth end up in jail, half are jobless and a third become homeless.  Although many are interested in pursuing college degrees, the daily struggles to exist keep them from pursuing their higher education goals and achieving their potential.

We also help fund the Guardian Scholars program at Sacramento State.  The program provides a campus-based program with an integrated system of services to support current and former foster youth in the successful completion of a college degree.  In addition to academic assistance the program, through mentor-ship, provides physical/emotional support that will allow them to attend to their studies and complete their degrees in a reasonable time with no or minimum debt.

I went to another charity event last year, I think in was CSUS Alumni, and they raised $2 Million dollars for an art wing honoring a local artist and I couldn’t help but think how many foster youth we could help with 2 million dollars. If you would like to help our website is  This is my reality show!  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Bill Bartok

Hello World! First Blog 7-11-12

So I’ve finally decided to write a blog.  Why not, everybody’s doing it in one form or another, right?  Facebook is for silly stuff your friends are doing, Linkedin is more on the serious side, and twitter, well lets just say some folks just have too much time on their hands.

We all have things we are interested in, they’re called passions.  I happen to have three; Food, I’ve been cooking since I was 12, Wine, I’ve been drinking since…,  and Finance, I’ve been an Advisor for 20 years.  So I’ve decided to share these passions with you my readers.

I will be picking a different topic; New recipes I’ve created or found, Wines that I’ve tasted and pairings I’ve put with them, and financial topics that I believe you can benefit from.  Each Friday I post a “Weekly Rap” piece that summarizes the weeks economic events with an occasional rant on a random subject.  Please feel free to leave a reply.

So stay tuned.  The best is yet to come.  You can almost taste it!