Macaroni and cheese, done right, is one of the best comfort foods in the world. Some days you just gotta have a little extra comfort, so it has been hard giving up this dish. After a difficult day worrying over a sick kitty, going back and forth to the vet, and dealing with too much work in between…it was one of those days. I needed cheese, and lots of it!
Going back to one of my favorite old Mac N Cheese recipes, I re-engineered it to use cauliflower instead of pasta. Roasting the cauliflower first reduces the watery-ness that you get with steamed cauliflower, and it also holds its texture better. Browned bits of cauliflower in creamy cheese sauce made this the soothing dish I was craving – full of gooey, homey goodness!
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/2 onion, minced
- olive oil
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces grated Parmesan
- 2 ounces sour cream
- Kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper (to taste)
- 1 egg, lightly whisked (optional)
[Note: You can use different cheeses. Today I didn’t have MJ cheese, so substituted a mild cheddar hoop cheese. Swiss, Gouda, Gruyere…they’re all good too. Just try to end up with a total of 16 ounces.]
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat shallow roasting pan with olive oil. Toss cauliflower in roasting pan with just enough olive oil to coat; season with salt and pepper. Roast, covered, for about ten minutes. Remove cover and roast 8-12 minutes longer, shaking occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and lightly browned in places. Set aside. Decrease oven temperature to 350F.
Saute the onion in 1 T olive oil (or butter), until soft.
In a large (really large) bowl, combine the roasted cauliflower, onions, and most of the cheese (reserve some to top the dish at the end). Add the heavy cream and sour cream, and mix together. Add the egg, if using. Toss well to combine the ingredients. Season with salt, pepper, and several good dashes of cayenne pepper – to your taste. Note that it tastes pretty darn good already, without cooking!
Lightly oil a baking dish; add the mixture to the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350F for around 30 minutes, until it is bubbly and browning on top. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and comfort yourself!
Just as there is solace in comfort foods, there are some pieces of music you return to simply because they have resonated with you since, well, forever.
Comes a Time from Neil Young is such an album. Actually, most anything Neil works for me, but this one, coming right before the incredible Rust Never Sleeps, is a personal favorite.
Comes a time
when you’re driftin’
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
Lift that baby
right up off the ground.
Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It’s a wonder tall trees
ain’t layin’ down
There comes a time.
You and I we were captured
We took our souls
and we flew away
We were right
we were giving
That’s how we kept
what we gave away.