We have a big package of mac and cheese in one of our closets. I think there are 12 or 24 boxes of the blue box Kraft stuff in there. I don’t really know because we’ve never opened it. We’ve never even really touched it since we brought it home. We got it with the intent that we would use it “in case of emergency,” but now that it has been there for a couple of years, I’ve realized that even in case of emergency, we may not be tempted by the blue box mac and cheese, as much as we loved it in our younger days. And that is because we’ve kind of fallen in love with homemade mac and cheese. We’re in so deep that we can’t help but look at the blue box sitting in our shelf and wonder what we were thinking. It’s almost embarrassing. We spent money on that. It’s taking up precious space in our little apartment. What to do, what to do?
Probably just use the mac and toss the cheese, right? The cheese bag, anyway. I’d still use cheese. Think of all the mac and cheese we could make with those blue box elbows. But I hate to waste perfectly good cheese powder. Anybody want some? The cheese powder is up for grabs. Anyone? Well, can I interest you in a recipe for creamy mac and cheese with cauliflower? Okay, then. Here you go.
Creamy Cauliflower Mac with Caramelized Shallots and Goat Cheese adapted from March 2011 Runner’s World
2-2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cauliflower, cored and cut into large pieces
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice (sharp cheddar, Gruyere, monterey jack)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I really liked this, but you may want to use less if you are serving kids. It adds a bit of a kick.)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 large or 3 small shallots, chopped
2-3 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled (or to taste)
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil (enough to cover the cauliflower). Add cauliflower and boil for about 25 minutes, until very tender. While that is boiling, warm vegetable or chicken stock in small saucepan. Add bay leaves and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. (You can also caramelize the shallots while the cauliflower is boiling. Directions are below.) Drain cauliflower and put in a food processor along with stock (discard bay leaves), olive oil, Dijon mustard, and cheeses. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and brown, 15-20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil more water in a large pot. Add macaroni and cook for 5-6 minutes. Drain and toss with cauliflower mixture. Place in a greased 9-inch square baking dish.
Sprinkle caramelized shallots and crumbled goat cheese over macaroni. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until heated through.