Mac ‘n cheese takes a walk on the light side
I do loves me some mac ‘n cheese. In my book, there’s just no better comfort food. But, I’m preaching to the choir, right? Because why else would you be reading this, except for seeing mac ‘n cheese in the title.
As much as I’m loathe to admit it, however, it’s not the healthiest thing. And as someone who has lost two siblings and, very recently, a father, to various forms of heart disease, it’s probably time to face the music.
So, the Fall issue of Food Network Magazine made me sit up and take notice when they had a “light” recipe for my beloved macaroni and cheese. And this time, “light” didn’t mean watery milk or flavorless cheese. Comfort food with no flavor is no comfort. You’re with me on this one, right?
The secret ingredient is … now, don’t run away screaming … cauliflower. Well-cooked, pureed cauliflower. You don’t even taste it (although personally, I love the flavor of cauliflower) — it just adds body that is normally provided by a roux or bechamel sauce. At approximately 400 calories per 1-1/3 cup serving, you won’t be ruing the lack of roux.
Does this look like you’re being deprived of rich, creamy, cheesy, noodlely goodness? I thought not.
|Macaroni and Cheese with a Secret
Adapted from Food Network Magazine, October 2009
|1||12 oz||can evaporated whole milk|
|pinch cayenne pepper|
|pinch freshly ground nutmeg|
|Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper|
|2||cups||grated cheese (Mix it up, use a combo. Sharp cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, fontina are excellent possibilities and readily available. All four sound good? Go for it. You won’t be sorry.)|
|4||cups||cauliflower (about 1 head), separated into florets|
|4||cups||pasta (I used rotini in the photos, but I also love cavatappi. Would I say “no” to this recipe with elbows or shells? As if.)|
1. Whisk the egg, evaporated milk, cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl. Toss the grated cheeses in a separate bowl.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until almost falling apart, about 7 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the pasta to the same water and cook until al dente, per the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Preheat the broiler.
3. Combine the egg mixture and the grated cheeses in the empty pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheeses melt and the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and add the cauliflower. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and light (you can also use a regular blender). Stir in some of the reserved pasta water until creamy.
4. Toss the pasta in the sauce; season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a shallow casserole dish. Broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (I didn’t broil mine; I couldn’t wait that long.)