A gratin that suits ‘blanket day’

I had an unchristian early appointment for a Saturday, so I promised myself as soon as I got up that I would be able to take a nap under a blanket on the couch later in the day. But when I got home, my dreamed siesta spot had already been taken up by my firstborn. Not that this should have come as a surprise, because he has been living on the couch more or less permanently since the universities closed their doors.

In what looks most like an improvised encampment with a brightly colored, crocheted patchwork blanket as a tent cloth and his head as the highest tent pole sits (read: hangs) he makes complicated calculations every day, Godel, Escher, Bach to read and whatever else young mathematicians are up to, only occasionally his pale face above the tent is excellent to inquire if there is still cheesecake.

Do you know Linus van Pelt? Linus is Charlie Brown’s best friend in the American comic book Peanuts, that clever little boy in that striped T-shirt who always carries a blanket with him. Well, my oldest could have modeled for Linus. Ever since he could walk, he has been carrying a blanket with him everywhere he goes. He also wears a striped shirt almost every day. And in terms of cleverness… well.

We struck a deal. Snow was promised for that afternoon and I let him choose: either you give up your spot on the couch to your mother or you go along for a walk in the snow. He chose the latter and satisfied that I would get my inner child outside, I crawled into my bed for a well-deserved nap.

When I awoke for the second time that day, the world was dusted with powdered sugar. Linus and I went for a lovely walk, then we drank hot chocolate with whipped cream and a splash of Berenburg and then he ducked back into his tent and I snuggled up with the last remaining blanket and we are light by Gerda Blees in a chair.

Blees’ novel is about people who decide to stop eating and after an hour of reading I was very hungry. In the fridge I found a bag of Brussels sprouts and a piece of old farmhouse cheese and I decided to roast the Brussels sprouts and then tuck them in under a blanket of cheese sauce and au gratin in the oven. So a Brussels sprout gratin. To celebrate Blanket Day.

Roasted Brussels sprouts under a blanket of cheese sauce (4 people)

1 kg Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved;
2 tsp dried thyme;
olive oil;
60 g of butter;
60 g flour;
600 ml warm (not hot!) milk;
200 g grated mature or old farmhouse cheese;
freshly grated nutmeg;
salt and pepper

Heat preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a low oven dish with a dash of olive oil, the thyme and salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until just cooked through and slightly browned.

Leave Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the flour, stir with a wooden spoon and let the mixture sauté for 2 minutes without coloring. Add the milk little by little while stirring constantly. Let the sauce simmer on very low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.

stir off the heat of the grated cheese into the sauce. Taste and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Schenk the cheese sauce over the roasted Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Return the dish to the oven for another 20 minutes, until nicely au gratin.