Thursday, April 26, 2012
This is bad. This is so very bad in the best way possible and would you believe that I made this recipe as healthy as I feasibly could? Okay, it could have been healthier, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that good healthy food should be real good and real healthy and bad naughty food should be treated like the bad, naughty shameful deliciousness that it is. I do not believe in low fat mayonnaise, fake coffee “creamer” or fat free ice cream. I believe the creamy foods should be eaten as God and Julia Child intended us to eat them: full fat, full fun.
I had been dying to make a baked mac and cheese, but had no good excuse to do that to myself. My Aunt Linda was recovering from shoulder surgery and I wanted to bring her some food to help out. I asked if she had any requests and she said “mac and cheese.” Well, who am I to deny a woman in recovery that which she needs. I was simply doing my job as a doting niece you see?
I thought I’d add a little “healthy” punch to what is otherwise a true gut buster of a dish by pureeing a whole head of cauliflower into the dish. The resulting volume made for a textured, fully flavored delicious sauce that made me feel almost like this dish was not THAT bad for me. No? Not buying it? Well, whatever it takes me to sleep through the night I guess. This stuff is ridiculous. Make some before it gets too warm out to justify baked pasta or make some to trick your children into eating a vegetable. Everyone knows that the cornerstones of healthy family relationships are fart jokes, sarcasm and trickery anyways.
CREAMY CAULIFLOWER MAC and CHEESE
One head cauliflower
1 box pasta (penne, rigatoni or elbows are great, but the best is cavatappi)
3 tbs. butter
3 tbs. flour
1 cup whole milk
2 heaping spoonfuls dry mustard
1 ½ cups shredded Gouda
½ cup grated parmesan
Scant ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
Trim leaves and stem from cauliflower and cut into equal sized florets. Set a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Once water is boiling, add cauliflower and cook for 20 minutes, until very tender. About 10 minutes into this cooking process, begin to make your sauce.
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour in and whisk constantly, cooking for about 5 minutes. This is what’s traditionally known as a roux and the three most important things to know about a roux are these: it’s equal parts butter and flour; it must be cooked to lose all the raw flour flavor but third, and perhaps most importantly, it mustn’t be burnt. Do not abandon your roux to go shred cheese or anything foolish like that. Whisk consistently and keep the heat at medium low. After five minutes, its color will have darkened a bit and it will have thickened into a tan colored paste. At this point, pour in your milk, add the dry mustard and continue to stir as it thickens to an off-white colored gravy. When you lift your whisk out of the pot it should be thick and coat the wires, this takes about another 5 minutes, if that.
Reduce the heat to low and check the tenderness of your cauliflower. If it’s ready, use a slotted spoon to pluck the florets out of the boiling water and stir into your sauce. Add to the pasta water your dry pasta and cook for about 5 minutes, until it is still quite firm but the outer edges are white and cooked (it will cook the rest of the way when you bake the dish). While the pasta cooks, use an immersion blender* to puree the cauliflower into the sauce. Once the chunkiness is all smoothed out, dump in your shredded Gouda, reserving a half handful or so for the top of your dish; stir together thoroughly to melt the cheese into the sauce. Taste and add a good amount of salt, seasoned salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt if necessary. You don’t want to kill it, but it is CRUCIAL to not under salt mac and cheese.
*if you don’t have an immersion blender, please go buy one. Or, remove the cauliflower from the pot and puree in a food processor or blender. But seriously, go by an immersion blender, those things are the tits.
Drain the pasta and stir into your thick, creamy, ridiculous sauce. Remove the pot from heat and spritz a baking dish with a little olive oil, or rub with butter. Pour the mac and cheese in and top with a little more shredded Gouda, the parmesan and breadcrumbs. Holy Mary mother of god this stuff is crazy good. Just thinking about it I’m getting a little flush.
At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated until you are ready to bake it. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are toasty brown. Lock yourself in your bedroom with the dish, I mean, um, share with your family and serve with something slightly more pious, like a mixed green salad or some steamed green veggies.