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Cauliflower “Mac and Cheese”

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 6 servings

Total carbohydrates: 7 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

This is truly, deeply delicious: cheesy, rich, and very un-vegetable-y. Plus, it’s full of nutrients from the cauliflower, and it’s very low-carb. That said, it’s not pasta, and you will feel its not-pasta-ness under your teeth, where it is soft and pleasing, but not chewy at all. So, if your family will be happy for you just to call it what it is – Cheesy Cauliflower – then do that. Use orange or white cheddar, as you or your children prefer, but just make sure it’s sharp. Also, there’s not enough hot sauce to make this actually spicy – the cream and cheese kind of drown it out – but if your kids will balk at it anyway, then consider replacing it with something zippy they can tolerate, like a little Dijon mustard or a dash of paprika.

Ingredients

1 medium-sized (2-ish pounds/0.9 kg) head of cauliflower or 2 (12-ounce/340 g) bags of florets

Salt

1 cup/240 ml heavy cream

½ cup (4 ounces/113 g) cream cheese, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon/15 ml hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot (see headnote)

¼ teaspoon/0.75 g garlic powder

A large pinch of nutmeg

2 cups (6 ounces/170 g) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C, grease an 8- by 8-inch baking dish (or something roughly that size), put a large pot of water on to boil over high heat, and set aside ½ cup/42 g of the grated cheese.

2. Cut or break the head of cauliflower into small florets. I do this by cutting the head in half, then cutting off all the tough outer leaves and cutting out the hard middle core. The rest of the stem I slice into small pieces, and the rest of the cauliflower I break with my hands into small pieces. It’s fine to do this all with a sharp knife.

3. Salt the boiling water generously – like, use a handful of salt – then add the cauliflower to the pot and cook it until it’s getting tender but still has a little bite (around 5 minutes from the time you add it).

4. Drain the cauliflower and put the empty pot back on the stove. Really shake the cauliflower around in the colander, then tip it onto a clean dish towel or onto multiple layers of paper towel to dry more while you make the sauce.

5. Put the cream and cream cheese in the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook, whisking, until the cream cheese melts and the cream is steamy. Add the hot sauce, garlic powder, nutmeg, and the 1 ½ cups of cheese you didn’t set aside. Whisk just until the cheese melts, then turn off the heat. Taste the sauce and add a pinch of salt if you think it needs it (if you didn’t skimp on the cheese – and I’m hoping you didn’t – it might not).

6. Add the cauliflower to the pot and stir gently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, then tip it out into the baking dish and shake gently to level it out. Top with the reserved cheese and bake 15-20 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and browned. If it’s not as brown as you’d like after 25 minutes, feel free to pop it under the broiler for a minute or two. Cool 10 minutes before serving, to give the sauce a chance to set up a little bit and so nobody burns their tongue.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Last year they started the WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and are currently developing Seasoned, their senior version, commissioned by the AARP. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health and happiness at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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