Creamy Cauliflower "Mac" & Cheese

Happy New Year chEATers! I'm so thankful to be continuing this journey in the new year and seeing where it can take me and Cheat Day. I personally start a Daniel Fast  at the beginning of each new year which requires me to follow a strict processed, sugar/sweetener, dairy, gluten, meat and animal by product FREE diet for 21 days. As I am embarking on this journey, I am thinking back to this delicious gluten free, cauliflower mac and cheese recipe I have been working on for quite some time. Now, while I wouldn't consider this to be a "healthy" version, it is lighter than traditional mac and cheese and is completely gluten free! For me that's exciting, because I can now enjoy creamy, decadent mac and cheese and not get bloated or have a tummy ache afterward (both of which are worth it for mac and cheese to me!). You could make this with a gluten free pasta or a regular if you don't have to monitory your gluten intake, but you seriously won't miss the pasta with this recipe!

It all starts with roasting cauliflower in the oven on high heat so that you release and evaporate the water from the vegetable so that it doesn't end up making your final dish soupy. It also cooks the cauliflower long enough to soften it, but roasting it until slightly crispy makes sure that it doesn't end up mushy. This is important because you now only have to cook the mac and cheese long enough to bring it together, but not over cook any element of it!

Roasted cauliflower. Free of extra moisture and ready for cheese

Roasted cauliflower. Free of extra moisture and ready for cheese

Next, we warm the milk and season it at the same time. This step is critical because, first, it keeps all the elements of the sauce at the same temperature, or only drops it slightly. I've found it creates a smoother roux which results in a smoother sauce. Seasoning the milk itself brings a subtle floral element to the dish from the shallot, and a nice herbal flavor from the bay leaf. 

All of my cheeses, shredded. 8 full ounces may or may not have made it into the recipe due to eating.

All of my cheeses, shredded. 8 full ounces may or may not have made it into the recipe due to eating.

Then, there's the cheese sauce. ERMAHGERD! It's so velvety and luscious that you may try to justify eating it as a soup. No really, the roux gives it its structure and the cheese it's smoothy and sexy texture and the faint taste of pancetta from cooking it in the same pan just sends it over the top. Then there's the blend of cheeses: cheddar for the classic flavor we love and one that melts incredibly well. Asiago for a saltiness and fontina for that super creamy meltyness! When you mix the cauliflower and the cheese together, you already have something amazing on your hands, but then layering it with mozzarella and pancetta gives it that final salty pop and ooey gooey cheese porn we all love in a mac & cheese.

No, you can't eat your screen. Fresh out of the oven and bubbling with delicious cheesiness

No, you can't eat your screen. Fresh out of the oven and bubbling with delicious cheesiness

Seriously, I'm salivating! I am counting down the 18 days I have left on this fast, but I think I already know what I'm making. But you should make it now! For step by step, keep reading. If you just want the recipe itself, scroll to the bottom!

Let me know what you think about this recipe by commenting below. And if you make it be sure to tag the recipe with #chEATer and me @LizeeAngel.


Mix cauliflower, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and pepper on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Spread into a single layer and cook 425 for 25 mins or until cauliflower is roasted with some visibly crispy spots.

Next In a saucepan, put together milk, bay leaf and shallot and turn heat on low. Keep warm, but do not boil. This step is important because boiling milk generally results in burned milk which will travel all throughout your dish! Not pleasant at all.

In a deeper saucepan, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel. Remove all but about a teaspoon of the grease and In that same pan, melt butter.

I can't explain how much the smell of bacon or pancetta makes me want to tootsie roll all over my house. be sure to drain the majority of the fat here. Reserve for a pancetta vinaigrette for later!

I can't explain how much the smell of bacon or pancetta makes me want to tootsie roll all over my house. be sure to drain the majority of the fat here. Reserve for a pancetta vinaigrette for later!

When the butter has melted, melted add rice flour and whisk continuously not to burn. Cook out "raw flavor" for 2 mins. Rice flour is gluten free and works great in this recipe as it does not absorb a lot of moisture the way coconut flour or oat flour does.

Remove shallot & bayleaf from milk. Slowly stream in a little of the milk, while whisking to get smooth and remove lumps. Sauce will "tighten up" continue to whisk smooth. You want to add enough to start to smooth it out. Once you are there, add in remaining milk. Continue to whisk to ensure a smooth sauce. Sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Here you are whisking to ensure smoothness and have to do so continuously to get the right texture

Here you are whisking to ensure smoothness and have to do so continuously to get the right texture

Season with all spices, except salt. Because many of the cheeses used are naturally salty, you want to wait until cheeses have been added before salting. Switch to a spoon from a whisk and stir. When sauce can coat back of spoon, add 3/4 of cheddar, asiago and fontina cheeses.

Our finished cheese sauce. Caution! You may be tempted to drink this. Do not! Just taste and adjust for seasoning!

Our finished cheese sauce. Caution! You may be tempted to drink this. Do not! Just taste and adjust for seasoning!

Stir until cheese is melted. Taste sauce and adjust for seasonings, then add the cauliflower and stir until all is combined. Remove from heat once combined.

Be sure to toss evenly to get all of the cauliflower covered. You want cheese in EVERY crevice!

Be sure to toss evenly to get all of the cauliflower covered. You want cheese in EVERY crevice!

If baking in ramekins, make sure they are all buttered inside and around outside rim as the mixture will overflow and it will make an easier clean up. If making in a dish, butter the inside. Fill your baking dish (or dishes) 1/2 way with mac and cheese. Top with 1/2 pancetta and half mozzarella/provolone. Top with remaining "Mac" and cheese, pancetta & mozzarella/provolone and 1/4 of cheese mix. If desired, top with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 425 for about 20 mins, or until bubbly and browned. Rest for 15 mins, then serve.

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Enjoy!


Creamy Cauliflower "Mac" & Cheese

Author: Monique Manning
Servings: About 6, 4 oz servings
Nutrition:
394 calories, 29.4g fat, 10.6g net carbs, 21.8g protein

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 head cauliflower florets, broken into smaller pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 c 2% milk
1 shallot
1 bay leaf
4 oz pancetta
2 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp black pepper,
1/4 tsp ground mustard,
1/2 tsp smoked paprika,
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 
Pinch of cayenne.
Salt to taste
2 oz Fontina, grated
2 oz Asiago, grated
2 oz Mild Cheddar, grated
2 oz Sharp Cheddar, grated
2 oz mozzarella or provolone, grated

Optional Topping
1/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs, optional
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

METHOD:

  1. Mix cauliflower, 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and pepper on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Spread into a single layer and cook 425 for 25 mins or until cauliflower is well roasted. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, put together milk, bay leaf and shallot and turn heat on low. Keep warm, but do not boil
  3. In a deeper saucepan, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel. Set aside. Remove grease from pot. 
  4. In same pan, melt butter.
  5. When melted add rice flour and whisk continuously not to burn. Cook out "raw flavor" for 2 mins.
  6. Remove shallot & bayleaf from milk. Slowly stream in a little of the milk, while whisking to get smooth and remove lumps. Sauce will "tighten up" continue to whisk smooth.
  7. Add in remaining milk. Continue to whisk to ensure a smooth sauce. Sauce will thicken.
  8. Season with all spices. Switch to a spoon from a whisk and stir. When sauce can coat back of spoon, add 3/4 of cheddar, asiago and fontina cheeses.
  9. Stir until cheese is melted, then add the cauliflower and stir until all is combined.
  10. If baking in ramekins, make sure they are all. Buttered inside and around outside rim. If making in a dish, butter the inside.
  11. Fill your baking dish 1/2 way with mac and cheese. Top with 1/2 pancetta and half mozzarella/provolone. Top with remaining "Mac" and cheese, pancetta & mozzarella/provolone and 1/4 of cheese mix. If desired, top with breadcrumbs.
  12. Bake at 425 for about 20 mins, or until bubbly and browned. Rest for 15 mins, then serve.
  13. Enjoy!