cauliflower cheese pie with grated potato crust

I have a hard time figuring out where I fit on the healthy eating spectrum. Some things are obvious. I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins: good. I also eat dessert often, although not necessarily a lot of it: still, bad. But everything in between, I’m not so sure.

For example, I love these bran muffins, and I consider them very healthy, as they’re completely whole grain, have a large portion of pure bran, a good dose of dried fruit, and less than 1 teaspoon fat per muffin. But someone commented, “it would be interesting to know the calorie/fat/carb ratios and that way know exactly how healthy these are…” Well, I don’t know; to me, they’re considered healthy. Maybe others disagree based on their versions of what healthy means.

Branny often “brannifies”, as she calls it, recipes by reducing the cheese and other fat, increasing the vegetables, substituting whole grains for refined, using egg whites instead of whole eggs, and choosing less saturated fats than butter. She used many of those tricks when she made this pie, but then when I made it, I…well, I unbrannified it, making the original Moosewood recipe instead of Branny’s healthier adaptation.

I like healthy foods too, and I have no problem decreasing fat and increasing vegetables when it seems reasonable, but by my standards, the original version of this recipe was healthy enough, with just a couple tablespoons of butter in the whole pie and 1 ounce of cheese per main course serving.  Perhaps milk, eggs, and potatoes are all questionable ingredients, but by my standards, they’re all fine in moderation.

But while we may disagree on just how healthy this is, I think we can all agree that it tastes great. And if you don’t like cauliflower, I think it would be at least as good with broccoli. The crust in particular is a revelation – made of grated potatoes and held together by an egg, there is no butter or oil anywhere. How about that for a flaky delicious pie crust? I can’t wait to use it with a quiche. Because even I know that buttery regular pie crust is decadent.

One year ago: Anadama Bread (another Moosewood recipe)
Two years ago: Sichuan Green Beans (still one of my favorites)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cauliflower Cheese Pie with Grated Potato Crust (adapted from Moosewood via Branny Boils Over)

Serves 8 as a side dish; 4 as a main course

Looking at online versions of this recipe now, I’m seeing that most call for the shredded potatoes to be salted and drained. I didn’t do this, and in fact, I thought the starch from the potatoes would help form a cohesive crust. I was very happy with how my crust turned out without the draining step.

I recommend using a food processor to shred the potatoes, grate the onion, and shred the cheese.

Crust:
2 cups packed shredded raw potatoes, preferably russet
¼ cup grated onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dash thyme
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup packed grated strong cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
black pepper
paprika

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the shredded potatoes, onion, salt, and egg. Pat the potato mixture into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the crust a spritz with nonstick spray. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onion and cook just until they start to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme, cauliflower, and salt; cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender, about 8 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, a pinch of salt and another of black pepper, and the milk until evenly colored.

5. Spread half of the cheese on the baked crust. Top with the cauliflower mixture and the rest of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the pie. Dust with paprika.

6. Bake the pie until the custard is set and the top is slightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Comments

  1. That looks so delicious. I wonder if it might get my husband to eat cauliflower, which is healthier than him NOT eating cauliflower if nothing else. It’s been a while since I made one of your recipes to post, so it must be time again. =)

  2. Cheese, cauliflower, and potatoes? That’s a triumvirate of side-dish awesomeness right there :) (I actually can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love to eat cauliflower, but maybe I’m just sensible that way.) This is plenty healthy – just everything in moderation :)

  3. It is the weirdest thing. I cannot find an internet version of this recipe that is exactly like the version in my 1970s copy of the Moosewood cookbook. I think in later printings of the cookbook, Mollie altered the recipe.

  4. I think it’s great if you can define what is healthy for you – everyone’s body is a little different; what I need to put in mine in order to feel energetic and satisfied and strong (and not fat!) might be a little different than what you need.

    I love love love cauliflower so this sounds awesome. And I also wanted to add, I think the most amazing quiche ever is one I made with a grated potato crust, filled with smoked salmon, leeks, and goat cheese. You should definitely try it, potato crusted quiche is the BEST!

  5. It’s interesting what different people’s definitions of “healthy” are. I used to eat everything sugar-free, low-fat, etc & thought that was healthy, but now I’m more in your territory, choosing to eat smaller portions of the full-fat, full sugar type things. I like the concept of “clean eating”, where the idea is to reduce/eliminate processed foods and to focus on whole foods. I definitely feel better on my current diet than I ever did on my old one.

  6. I have no opinion about how healthy this is, because it looks amazing! I wish I had it right now! Potato crust is awesome!

  7. i am so excited to try this! we actually have a ton of potatoes sitting around right now…i think i’m adding this to next week’s menu! what else could i serve it with?

  8. This has all my favorites in it- yum! I sometimes have a hard time defining healthy as well.

  9. bridget says:

    Natalie – I’m pretty bad at planning side dishes. We ate this as a main dish since it had vegetables, starch, and protein (eggs and milk) all included. But I think it would make a good side dish for a lot of meat dishes.

  10. I cook and bake the way you do – healthy, but to a certain point. Butter is tasty, so is cheese, I love desserts, and am addicted to carbs. I just know that I have to run to offset it :) Health doesn’t enter my thoughts looking at this though – just YUM!

  11. This looks absolutely fabulous!

  12. I’m thinking I can get my husband to try cauliflower with this recipe!

  13. Healthy or not, this looks awesome!

  14. I really like the idea of shredding the potatoes to make the crust…I will be trying this soon! Great recipe.

  15. I probably would have un-Brannified too! She’s so great the way she always makes things healthy, but I am not so good that way!

  16. Diane says:

    I made this today! I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to a T, but I tried to follow the crust pretty well and mine turned out so dark and crunchy. I enjoyed it just the same, and I agree – a potato crust is a revelation. I just might cook it a little less initially. Maybe a little more work than I’m willing to put in on a regular basis, but still a keeper.

  17. Gayle Levy says:

    Can you start with frozen shredded potatoes?

  18. Gayle – I think it would work just fine.

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