Hearty Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese

We picked up some Appenzeller cheese the other day, and we wanted to use it to try our hand at making a lighter version of the classic Swiss dish, Älplermagronen, which is at its heart Swiss Mac n’ Cheese. However, unlike American Mac n’ Cheese, Älplermagronen incorporates potatoes and often other additions (bacon, caramelized onions, etc.).

In our attempt to make the dish a little lighter, we decided to make a few substitutions/alterations:

  1. Substituting Cauliflower for Macaroni
  2. Keeping some potato, but using less than normal and adding mushrooms and peas to fill in for the reduced potato
  3. Using half and half instead of heavy cream
  4. Keeping the bacon…this isn’t really a health-conscious decision…but we’re not nixing the bacon! However, if you skip the bacon, you will have a delightful vegetarian dish.

Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 1/2 Head of Cauliflower
  • 1/2 Russet Potato
  • 1 Onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Alpine Cheese of some sort (or a mix). We used a mix of Appenzeller and Raclette, but Gruyere and/or Emmentaler would be excellent and most likely easier to find.
  • 1 Tablespoon of Butter
  • 1.5 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
  • Milk, half and half, or cream. We used a mix of half and half and 1% milk.
  • Seasonings to taste. We added black pepper and paprika
  • Optional: Bacon (we are using two strips, but don’t limit yourself by our decision!)

Method:

  • Prep your veggies
    • Cube your potatoes, and put them in a pot with some water
    • Dice your onions
    • Slice your Mushrooms
    • With your hands, tear apart the cauliflower florets, and slice the remaining stalks. Steam it a little if you’d like a softer cauliflower…we used raw, and it came out al dente.
  • Start heating the water and potatoes, and let it come to a boil.
  • While the potatoes are heating, either:
    • Vegetarian – Heat some oil or butter in a large pan
    • Using Bacon – Slice your bacon, and add it to a large pan, and start heating to render and brown a bit.
  • Once your oil is hot/butter is added/bacon has rendered a bit, add your onions, and sautee until they start to caramelize.
  • At that point, add your cauliflower and mushrooms. You may need to add a little butter or oil here too depending on how much bacon you used and how much fat is in the pan as a result. Let this all cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in your frozen peas, and cook for another 5 or so minutes.
  • As everything is cooking, dice your cheese, and set it aside.
  • When your potatoes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork, drain them, and add them to your cauliflower pan.
  • Put your butter in the pan, and let it melt. Then, add your flour, and stir to combine everything and coat it with the flour. Let this cook for about a minute once the flour is incorporated.
  • Add in your milk/half and half/cream, and then your cheese. Stir to combine, and let everything cook for another few minutes until everything reaches your desired level of thickness/creaminess.
  • Plate, devour, and enjoy!

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