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Cafe Juanita Roasted Cauliflower in Fonduta Sauce

Owner Chef Holly Smith

Cafe Juanita, Kirkland

serves 4 to 6

“In November we joined family members for dinner at Cafe Juanita. It was the first time we ever ate there, but it won’t be the last! There is still ‘buzz’ among those who shared that special family time. The experience was divine. My husband ordered an appetizer that was clearly my favorite dish of the entire evening, a roasted cauliflower in a heavenly sauce. I would be thrilled to have the recipe for this magnificent appetizer. I would have been content if it had been my entrée. At some point I made my husband trade me for the (also fabulous) soup I had ordered. Poor guy never saw his cauliflower again. That sauce is so memorable. I cannot begin to describe it—the flavors were so intriguing I actually am obsessing about it! We have tried (most unsuccessfully) to recreate some semblance of that sauce. Sadly, we haven’t come close. Thank you in advance to the genius chef at Cafe Juanita!”

— Deb & Frank Dehn, Woodinville

For the show, Chef Holly Smith made a more seasonal version using baby spinach. Recipes for both versions are included.


  • 15 egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream (42% butterfat)
  • 11/4 pounds grated Fontina Val D’Aosta cheese
  •  kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 pinch of sugar

Heat cream in a heavy-bottomed large saucepan. Whisk egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Add 1 ounce of warm cream to temper, then begin to slowly whisk egg yolk into hot cream.

Add in the grated Fontina and stir with a wooden spoon or whisk. Lower heat to medium at this point. Continue to cook this mixture, stirring constantly, until it loosens completely, approximately 10 minutes. Once the sauce has lost any gummy or stringy quality, season with salt, cayenne and a pinch of sugar. Turn off heat and hold warm or serve immediately.

This sauce may be cooled and refrigerated for up to a week and then slowly brought back up to temperature. Warm up gently over medium-warm heat. If needed, a little cream may be added at that time.


  • 1 loaf of good bread, pulled into hunks
  • 4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh picked and chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • white truffle oil for garnish

Pull croutons and place on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil with garlic and cook until the garlic begins to soften but not turn golden. Add salt and thyme off heat and immediately pour over bread. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown but not super crispy!

Wilted Baby Spinach

  • 4 tablespoons Ligurian olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large bunch washed and dried baby spinach
  • kosher salt

Brown garlic in oil and butter. Cook spinach quickly, using tongs to coat evenly with oil.

Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Blanch 1 head cauliflower in salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Cut into sections. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat with olive oil and unsalted butter. Add cauliflower, season with salt and cayenne if desired, and cook until golden brown on one side. The cauliflower may also be finished in a preheated 425-degree oven.

Serve fonduta sauce warm on plates with a warm piece of bruschetta, a roasted cauliflower section or a mound of wilted spinach and, if desired, a drizzle of white truffle oil over bread and sauce.

Photo credit: Coyau / Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0