Spotlight on Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Go: Cauliflower Gratin From Backstreet Cafe

Looking for non-traditional (at least for your family) to-go side options this Thanksgiving? This series is highlighting the unconventional, interesting twists on side dishes available at Houston restaurants for the holiday. Pick up one or more to add some variety to your traditional Turkey Day feast.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should preface this post by saying that when foodies started using cauliflower as a replacement for starch (e.g., pizza with a cauliflower crust, mashed cauliflower rather than potatoes), I was not on board. First, as an (aspiring) endurance athlete, I'm not eager to embrace the whole "low-carb" lifestyle, though I know many runners who follow such a diet and regularly run faster than me.

What bothered me more, however, about this trend was that it supports the unnecessary, overly broad demonization of white flour and potatoes. Yes, we should limit our intake of the former, but with regards to the latter, spuds can actually be quite healthful.

So, why would I make a grand exception to my cauliflower-as-substitute ban and bring a vat of Backstreet Cafe's cauliflower gratin to my family's Thanksgiving dinner?

Three words: Cream. Butter. Cheddar Cheese.

I don't know the exact amounts of the aforementioned ingredients in this dish, but I am pretty sure in combination they are the larger half of the Other Stuff:Cauliflower ratio. This is not to say that cauliflower just becomes a mere vehicle for salt and fat, which potatoes, if not properly prepared, are apt to do in gratin form. Rather, the more fibrous, textured surfaces of the vegetable's head added an extra dimension to the dish by providing a series of nooks and crannies in which minute pieces of cheese and ebbs of butter hid. Your consumption experience thus becomes wonderfully uneven, with one bite being more creamy, the next more cheesy, the next more salt-and-peppery, and so on.

In summary, the requisite Thanksgiving vegetable never tasted so good.

A side of cauliflower grain at Backstreet Cafe is available in two sizes ($22, serves 6-8 people; $35, serves 12-15 people). Orders should be placed by Monday, November 25, for pick-up (complete with reheating instructions) on Wednesday, November 27. Orders can be placed by phone, or an order form can be found at www.backstreetcafe.net.

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