Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mac + Cheese: Runners ' Edition

Over the weekend, I decided to whip up a version of mac +cheese that had been on my mind for some time.

At the outset of this project,  I declared that I was not trying to make a light or healthy version of mac + cheese. But I was inspired by my afternoon run... and Mark Bittman is one of my very favorite food writers and cooks... so you see, I couldn't resist trying out his lightened up version of mac + cheese that appeared in Runners World Magazine (recipe here), especially in light of the fact that I've been complaining about the overwhelming richness of most of the other recipes. 

Cauliflower Mac + Cheese served with Chinese-style Chicken Wings

The Details:  This is a very unique recipe, in that the butter, milk and cream are replaced with cauliflower. Yes, you read that correctly: cauliflower. Weird, huh? Essentially the idea is that you replace the white sauce with a white veg that has been cooked and pureed with some stock until it is a sauce-like consistency. Then you go ahead and add the cheese and other ingredients, mix with pasta and top with breadcrumbs. Then, you bake until it is bubbling and golden brown.

The Results: When I mixed the pasta and sauce together, I was definitely worried. There was a lot of sauce; it looked like cauliflower soup with a little macaroni floating in it. However, once baked, it really condensed. It was more like the consistency of very creamy mashed potatoes... with some macaroni mixed in.  Wow, I am really not making this sound good, am I? But it was very good and tasty, and Phin immediately started thinking up alternate uses for pureed cauliflower (eg: to top a shepherd's pie, as a gratin-ed side dish, as a mashed potato replacement for the carb-conscious...) The cauliflower has a very mild flavor, it is completely unobtrusive and it didn't make the dish overly-rich. I actually came back for seconds.

End notes:  This recipe might be worth tinkering with. I think that I must have had a very large head of cauliflower and that is why the macaroni and cheese elements of the dish did not shine - they were overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of puree. So, with less cauliflower, this recipe might end up more like the mac + cheese I envisioned.

All that said, my next version of mac + cheese will be back to the more standard button-bursting variety. 


Mar-Mar said...

Love your idea!! I was thinking of this project yesterday when I was getting my hair done and reading Bon Appetite. The March issue features some ideas on Mac and Cheese. I think in most of them they added veggies or meat to this mac &cheese.

I need to ask you a favor and would love to speak to you. My cell phone had an unfortunate run in with my waterbottle this morning and is drying out. So, I don't have your numbers! Could you call me at work if you can? I'll send you my number via facebook.


Clio said...

Yikes, Mar! I await your digits!

Sheila said...

mmmm...your dish looks delicious.