I am constantly inspired by food I taste, read about and see on other blogs. There are so many great ideas out there and I love trying lots of them in my home kitchen.
This past week I saw a recipe on a blog I fell in love with. I adored the idea of Cheesy Cauliflower and I made it the first time as the recipe was written. Then I started messing with it and tweaked it until this Cheesy-Habanero Cauliflower Bake was born.
My taste for spicy foods has grown tremendously over the past five years. I love a little heat in lots of foods, even sweet ones. In my current work with Sargento, tracking flavor trends over the next year, Habanero is mentioned as a culinary trend happening right now. And it’s true, there has been an explosion of Habanero sauces and recipes on the food scene. I have seen the movement from the chipotle chili to the Habanero as the next latest and greatest cooking ingredient. Its fruity, citrus-like flavor and floral aroma make it an enticing addition to all kinds of foods.
Have you worked with the Habanero chili before? You must absolutely wear gloves while slicing it. If you don’t, your hands can burn fiercely afterwards. And you don’t even want to risk touching your eyes after that. I am amazed at the folks who can eat these raw, they must be super-human.
In this recipe you only need one Habanero chili to enjoy the small amount of background heat it provides. It’s a wonderful addition to the sharp cheese, creamy sauce and crunchy topping. This is honestly a winning dinner side dish. It’s pure comfort food and went nicely with a plateful of Pacific Northwest Salmon. The heat of the Habanero is cooled by the cheese and cream in this recipe, it is not over the top in spice. It’s safe!
Cheesy-Habanero Cauliflower Bake
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Habanero chili pepper, seeds removed and finely diced (wear gloves)
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 7 oz Sargento Extra Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Steam cauliflower florets over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, uncovered.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon butter, Saute Habanero chili pepper and shallot for about one minute. Add garlic and stir for about another 30 seconds. Stir in flour until fully incorporated.
- Combine cream and milk together and slowly whisk into flour mixture, breaking up any lumps. Continue to whisk for about two minutes. Add cheeses, salt and pepper.
- Transfer cauliflower to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and pour cheese sauce over the top.
- In a small bowl combine melted butter, Parmesan and Panko. Sprinkle over cauliflower.
- Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until cheese is bubbling and top is slightly browned. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.
The Habanero chili pepper sits way above the jalapeno pepper on the Scoville scale. This is why you only need one chili pepper to add a nice heat to a single recipe.
Disclosure: I am currently working with Sargento Cheese over the next year as a Flavor Journey Correspondent. While I have been compensated for my time, as always, all opinions are my own.