Ok. So I have never really been super creative when it comes to Mac & Cheese. Honestly… I usually let my mother make it. Shhh…don’t tell anyone. I just could never really do it “right”. Ether my sauce was lumpy or my noodles over cooked. But when I heard about the recent Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off (YES – that is a cook-off featuring Mac & Cheese! I want a front row seat next year!!) I knew I just had give it another go. So tonight I put some gourmet ingredients to work and made Andrew Farrell’s Smoky Cauli-power Mac & Cheese. I can’t stop eating it…
Smoky Cauli-power Mac & Cheese
The rich and earthy flavour of roasted cauliflower and mushrooms highlights the robust flavours of smoky Cheddar and creamy Blue cheese in this silky and unstoppably delicious mac and cheese. Preparation Time: 35 minutes Baking Time: 12 minutes Cooking time: about 15 minutes Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 1 Large or 2 Small heads of cauliflower
- 1lb cremini mushrooms
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 4tbsp canola oil, divided
- 2 cups shredded Cow’s Creamery extra-old Cheddar cheese or other Canadian aged Cheddar, divided
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Marmite (yeast extract)
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup 35% whipping cream
- 2 1/2 cups shredded Cow’s Creamery Appletree Smoked Cheddar cheese or other smoked Canadian Cheddar
- 1 cup crumbled Urban Blue cheese or other mild creamy Canadian Blue cheese
- Chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
2. Trim cauliflower stem so it sits flat on cutting board; cut into thirds vertically (you will have two outside parts and one piece with core still attached). Grate outside pieces on a box grater and measure 3 cups (750 mL). Cut the middle piece of cauliflower into skinny florets, measure 2 cups (500 mL). Set aside grated cauliflower and place florets in large mixing bowl.
3. Using your hands, tear mushrooms into bite-size chunks, stem and all. Add to bowl with cauliflower florets; toss with salt, pepper, 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the canola oil, breadcrumbs and ½ cup (125 mL) of aged Cheddar. Spread mixture on a non-stick or foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned; set aside
4. In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and rinse lightly; set aside.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to high broil. Heat large, heavy bottomed pot on medium-high heat. When pot is hot enough that a water droplet evaporates quickly, add remaining oil, grated cauliflower, onion and salt and pepper. Do not stir for the first 1 minute of cooking. Sauté, until cauliflower is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add butter and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring and scraping up any bits stuck to bottom of the pot.
6. Reduce heat to medium and add cornstarch, mustard, Marmite and nutmeg. Stirring well, slowly whisk in milk and whipping cream; bring sauce to simmer. Remove from heat. With an immersion blender, carefully puree until smooth. Stir in remaining aged Cheddar, smoked Cheddar and Blue cheese; return to heat. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove sauce from heat and stir in pasta.
7. Place baking sheet with cauliflower mixture on the top rack in the oven and broil until mixture is crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place cheesy cauliflower pasta in serving bowls and top with crispy cauliflower and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with chives and enjoy. Variation: Place cheesy cauliflower pasta in a buttered 13×9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. Top with roasted cauliflower and mushroom mixture, chives and an additional ½ cup (125 mL) each of shredded aged Cheddar cheese and smoked Cheddar cheese. Bake in preheated 375°F (190°C) oven until cheese is melted and cauliflower is deep brown but not burnt, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Chef Andrew Farrell
Chef de Cuisine
2 Doors Down Food + Wine, Halifax NS
Andrew Farrell is the head chef at 2 Doors Down Food + Wine in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where his creations have earned the restaurant numerous awards. He’s a true Maritime chef, known for a style of cooking that’s influenced by family dinners and that features local ingredients. In 2014 Andrew took top honours for “Crispy Greens Mac & Cheese” and is excited to return this year with another take on his favourite cheesy classic.
Andrew has worked in kitchens in Canada and the UK and as sous chef at the popular Halifax restaurants Coastal Café, Fid Resto and Chives Canadian Bistro.
Since opening in May 2013, with Andrew in the kitchen, 2 Doors Down has won numerous awards, including “Best New Restaurant” and “Best Use of Local Ingredients” by a reader’s poll in The Coast and “Best Large Restaurant” and “Best New Restaurant” from the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. Andrew lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.