Monday, November 15, 2021

Mac and Cheese Without The Mac

 Mac and Cheese made with cauliflower (cf) rather than carbohydrate laden macaroni. 

I imagined this dish after having gluten free pasta mac and cheese recently. Unfortunately, gluten free pasta has an many carbs as wheat flower pasts, so that doesn't help those of us who are on low carbohydrate diets for one reason or another. 

Substituting cauliflower was inspired by having a head of the stuff in the fridge. When roasted right, it has a good texture and can be a little toothy like pasta. Don't get me wrong, it isn't pasta and you will not be tricking anyone into thinking it is. That isn't the point. It is, however, a delicious dish on its own not trying to masquerade as something else.

This isn't a low-calorie dish. Sure, it has fewer calories than the pasta-based dish but is not low cal. I wouldn't call it healthy either. That's not why you eat mac and cheese or cf and cheese. The ingredients, below, give good insight to the fat in the dish.

What makes this to good? Cheese! Smoked Gouda and Sharp Cheddar. heavy cream and, of course, Bacon! I use a mildly smoked gouda that is cut from a roll and sold in 8 oz discs. My neighborhood market, Zonatto's, has a great selection of gouda packed by branded labels too.  I like the creaminess and mild smoked flavor.  Plus, it melts well for the cheese sauce. I use Tillamook Sharp Cheddar only.

This recipe does not need additional salt. There is plenty of salt in the cheese and bacon.  

Ok, onto the ingredients:

8 ounces Smoked Gouda, grated
4 ounces Sharp Cheddar, grated
16 ounces heavy whipping cream. I use 8 oz Clover and 8 oz Trader Joe's Shelf Stable. 
1 head Cauliflower
6 Slices Thick Cut Bacon
Ground Black Pepper
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Optional - Red Pepper Flakes

You will be doing the following few steps:

Much of this will be done at the same time.

  • Grate Cheese
  • Fry Bacon
  • Prepare and roast cauliflower
  • Make cheese sauce
  • Bake Casserole

Prep steps:

  • Preheat oven to 400F. I use convection with a rack in the middle.
  • Cut and prepare Cauliflower
  • Grate Cheeses


Wash and dry the cauliflower. Cut in 1/4s then break by hand into small bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix until cauliflower is lightly coated. I do this by hand. If you need a little more olive oil, add just enough to lightly coat.

Line a baking sheet with foil to make cleanup easier. Spread cauliflower evenly on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with garlic powder and ground black pepper. 

Place cauliflower on middle rack in preheated oven and roast for 25 - 30 minutes. Test texture after 20 minutes. It should be a little firm. You don't want mushy cf and cheese.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and let cool. I let both cool for about 30-45 minutes.

Roasted Cauliflower Cooling

Reduce oven heat to 325.

Grate Cheeses

Peel away the thin red coating off the gouda. The gouda I use has to be shaved off. I use a sharp knife but will try a vegetable peeler next time. Grate into a bowl.

Grate sharp cheddar. Set aside 2 ounces to sprinkle on top later. Put the other 2 ounces with the gouda.

Make Cheese Sauce

In a 2-quart pot (4-quart shown), heat heavy cream until it is simmering. Add 1/4 of grated gouda and cheddar mix. Stir constantly to mix and melt. Add 1/4 more, stir, mix, melt. Add the rest, mix, melt. This takes about 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle some ground pepper to taste or preference.  If you want a little heat, add 1/2 tsp or desired amount of red pepper flakes. Once thoroughly melted, remove from heat and let cool. You can cool to room temp. I waiting until it was mostly cool but still able to pour over the cauliflower and spoon out the rest with a silicon spoon.

Cheese Sauce Cooling on the Assembly Line

Fry Bacon

Cook bacon to a mostly crispy texture. Move to paper towel lined plate and pat the excess oil off. Break into small pieces. I crumble by hand and leave it on the paper towel until needed.

Crispy Bacon Pieces

Assemble the cf and cheese casserole:

I use a 9" oval casserole dish. 

  • Put all the cauliflower in the casserole dish.
  • Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower coating everything
  • Sprinkle bacon all over
  • Top with 2 ounces cheddar
  • I like to place the casserole disk on a baking pan in case cheese bubbles over
CF and Cheese Ready To Bake

Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.

Cheddar on top will brown and cheese will be bubbling.
Remove from oven and let it set 10 minutes covered with foil.

Eat!  As you can see, it was attacked before I could take a picture of the finished dish. 

Finished - Note the Color Of The CHeddar

Bonus. We made a homemade cream of mushroom soup and added turkey meatballs and (Haricots Verts) green beans to go with the cf and cheese.  

Turkey Meatballs in Mushroom Soup and Green Beans

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