Cauliflower 'N Cheese (Gluten-Free)

I spent a couple of days vacillating over how to make a mac 'n cheese that is delicious, somewhat sophisticated, decadent without being too heavy, and relatively healthy.  I find the gym is a good place to brainstorm recipe ideas, especially focusing on healthier and more nutritious options.  A younger, hip lady suggested replacing the pasta with cauliflower.  That was genius. I tend to be very stingy with my imported Italian gluten-free pasta and save it for dishes that are all about the pasta. Let's face it - macaroni and cheese is about the oozy cheese sauce (aka bechamel/mornay sauce) and the gratin topping.  What's on the inside acts as a carrier.

Since I decided the best way to blanch the cauliflower was in the microwave, making the effort much less than cooking pasta to the perfect al dente. I like easy. I did add an extra step in this recipe, sauteing aromatics such as leeks, onions, shallots, and garlic to add in this dish. It adds so much depth, flavor, interest, personality... worth the effort. For the bechamel/mornay sauce I used good old-fashioned butter, potato starch (or any GF flour mix will work), 2% milk, and 2% sharp cheddar cheese which you can't tell. For the gratin topping - butter, instant mashed potato flakes, 2% sharp cheddar cheese, and salt. Yes, this dish requires more work than my usual recipes, but worth the extra effort, I'd like to think...

Cauliflower 'N Cheese with Leeks and Aromatics (Gluten-Free)
  • Cauliflower, 1 average head, washed and leaves removed
  • Butter, 45 grams (2 tablespoons) + more for gratin
  • Potato Starch, 45 grams (2 tablespoons), or any GF flour mix
  • Salt, White Pepper, Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper
  • Milk, 2%, 2 cups
  • Grated Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 2%, 2 cups, separated
  • Olive Oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Onion, 1/4, chopped fine
  • Leek, washed super well, chopped fine
  • Shallot, chopped fine
  • Garlic, 2-3 cloves, chopped fine
  • Instant mashed potato flakes, 1 cup
  1.  Microwave the head of cauliflower on high for 7 minutes in a large microwave-safe bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Allow to cool.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low/medium heat and add in aromatics: leeks, onion, shallot, garlic. Saute with some salt until transparent. Turn off heat.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the measured butter and potato starch, stirring with a whisk. Add in a dash of salt, white pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper. Stir for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add in the heated milk with vigorous whisking. Bring to a slight simmer. Add in about half of the cheese very slowly with thorough stirring. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Drain any water from the cauliflower and chop into small pieces.
  5. Stir in the sauteed aromatics and chopped cauliflower.
  6. In a small processor, mix together 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes + 1/2 cup of the cheese. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and add and mix again in processor with a little salt.
  7. Preheat oven to 375F. (I used my toaster over which heat up fast and is awesome!)
  8. Turn the cauliflower and cheese sauce into a 8x8 pan or medium size casserole dish. Level out. Evenly distribute the gratin topping on top. Bake fore about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to set up slightly before cutting and serving. Makes about 6-8 servings.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Comfort Food Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  This week we're focusing on macaroni and cheese dishes.  On twitter, we're tagging #ComfortFoodFest.  Here are other awesome macaroni and cheese dishes to try out: