Cauliflower-Cheese Pie with Potato Crust

I usually don’t cook from cookbooks, but occasionally one finds oneself with a surfeit of some wintry CSA crucifer like cauliflower, and after gazing at your kitchen shelf, still shockingly covered in dusty quart jars of pickles, decide maybe you’ll try cooking the damn thing for once instead of just stuffing it into a jar of herbed vinegar or curry-brine as a saving throw.

This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook. Some readers may be surprised to know that I own this book, or that I was a strict vegetarian for ten years; ten long, thin years. I hadn’t cracked this book in ages, but it was there, full of ideas when I needed it. Unsurprisingly, most of the recipes suggest rendering dinner palatable with the addition of copious amounts of eggs, cheese and garlic. Pretty much any vegetable you have languishing in your fridge can be put into a pie with eggs and cheese and it will be delicious.

In the past few years, though, I have discovered another ingredient that makes any vegetable delicious: bacon. I know, I know. “Bacon has totally jumped the shark,” I say all the time. And it has, on shit like pancakes and ice cream. But before bacon was the sun dried tomatoes of pork products, it was the way my mother and grandmother prepared most vegetables—bacon (or a ham bone, or just some bacon fat) makes everything taste better. Why should a humble cauliflower pie be any exception?

This is a great recipe, though, diced pancetta or no. It’s basically a Spanish tortilla baked in a hashbrown shell. I added a little smoked paprika as a nod. If you do decide to add the pancetta, simply render the dice (I go 1/4″) until a bit crispy and then cook the onions in the lard. Otherwise, just be a boring hippie and use olive oil. It’s still great.