It is "Mac & Cheese" at Food Network's Comfort Food Feast. So...on one hand, we have my New Year's Resolution to eat healthier as I overindulged during the holidays. On the other hand, I have two blogs which mean two different Mac & Cheese recipes in one week. (plus the test batches) My solution? Substitute cauliflower for the pasta in one of the recipes and provide a vegan option. Add additional veggies and use as a side dish instead of a main course. A little cheese is a good thing...right?
This recipe starts by parboiling the cauliflower to keep it al dente (firm) and then making a delicious white sauce (called Bechamel by the French). I used both aged extra sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, but you could just use one type if you wish. Because the white Monterey Jack cheese and the white cauliflower is so pale, I added a bit of nutritional yeast for taste and color. The green onions and red bell pepper also add color, taste, and texture. Yeah...a delicious alternative to traditional Mac & Cheese. This recipe is a keeper. Enjoy!
You can make this a vegan recipe by using the olive oil, almond milk, and vegan substitute suggestions offered.
Cauliflower and Veggie "Mac" & Cheese
(serves 4-6 depending on cauliflower size)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
3 cups milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 1/2 cups extra sharp aged cheddar cheese, shredded (or vegan substitute)
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or vegan substitute)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter (or vegan substitute) a medium sized casserole dish, Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt water and add cauliflower. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain into a colander. Add drained cauliflower back to the pot and cook over medium heat for 1 minute stirring constantly. You are working to dry the cauliflower as much a possible. Add back to colander and set aside.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, one tablespoon at a time, ensuring well blended. Add 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Heat milk in a microwave for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 of the milk and stir until combined. Repeat with additional thirds. Whisk in mustard and 1 large pinch each salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until sauce is beginning to thicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Add onions, bell pepper, and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Let simmer 3-4 minutes or until sauce is as thick as you like. Stir in nutritional yeast. Remove from heat.
Place cauliflower and 1 cup cheese sauce in the large pot and stir to combine. Add enough additional sauce to ensure cauliflower is completely coated. Pour into prepared casserole dish and drizzle 1/2 cup cheese sauce over top. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese sauce is hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Note, you will have leftover cheese sauce. Refrigerate the sauce as soon as it is cool. Delicious on pasta, steamed vegetables, a substitute for Hollandaise sauce on Eggs Benedict, or heated and used as a dip with tortilla chips. You will find many uses for this delicious cheese sauce.
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