I made this for an early lunch today as a test, since I've a friend who has celiac disease. (The recipe isn't presented as gluten-free, but it certainly would fit the bill for anyone who needs to avoid gluten.)
So I can serve something to her as a side dish that isn't just another round of "steamed and buttered something", I'll occasionally try things that look interesting. You never know, plenty of crowd-pleasers are naturally gluten-free, but cheese sauces usually aren't since they start with a butter/flour roux.
First, this is a fun dish to make. The sauce becomes incredibly stringy! So stringy, I forgot to add the knob of butter to it before enrobing the cauliflower. Oops!
This is a very adult dish. The base liquid has wine and stock reductions, I used Sauvignon Blanc and homemade stock, and it doesn't result in a dish where the vegetable is swimming in sauce. You don't even bake it, just brown it, so the cauliflower must be thoroughly cooked before it goes under the broiler.
I'm sure the trio of pickling one-third of the cauliflower, deep-frying another third, and then boiling the remaining third would create a very intriguing result. I merely steamed it all today, and was still pleased with it.
With nearly a half bottle of wine used for the reduction, and gruyere running $10-20 per pound, it's getting up there in price for a side dish considering you use nearly a third of a pound of cheese. I'm positive it could be made with a lesser expensive cheese, and probably even apple juice instead of the wine. I used a $7 bottle of wine and a domestic cheese from Trader Joe's, plus cauliflower was on sale this week, but even so I figure this dish cost at least $8 to put together. That's in a budget-busting range for a lot of people.
My homemade chicken stock is barely salted, and I wasn't happy with the resulting seasoning of the sauce. Luckily, I tasted it before it went over the cauliflower so I could correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. I'd even say that a bit of cayenne wouldn't go amiss.
With a little thinking ahead in regards to the cost and flavors, I would make this again, but only expect those with an educated palette to rave about it prepared as is. The approach to how it's prepared is certainly unique.