This was not at all a sneak attack. This was a straightforward “Hey little dude, do you think you would like cauliflower if I made this recipe?”
Oh, yes, yes, I would eat it up, it looks delicious, definitely make it Mommy, make it right away, blah, blah, blah.
So there is no reason why, after troubling myself to get all the ingredients and getting my unwilling, intermittently vegan dad into the process, and committing myself to joining my son in eating a stodgy, creamy, cheesy, bacon-y mess of a fantastic casserole that in no way advances my desire to look good in a bathing suit by summer…there is absolutely no reason why said five-year-old little dude should be allowed to not eat the damn cauliflower, whether he likes it or not.
But of course, you know what happened.
“This recipe” referred to the mouthwatering pictures in Jamie Oliver‘s book Meals in Minutes, which I recently borrowed from the library and which sets out, not individual mix and match recipes, but dinner menus that are supposed to take under 30 minutes, if you follow his step by step instructions. I love Jamie’s work – use his TED lecture and other material with my ESL classes. But have a bit of difficulty following directives – at least in my private life – I do okay at work, as I am not a complete anarchist, you know! –so I just picked out the recipes I liked!….anyhoo, this is a reasonable facsimile of what old Jamie sets out and it was really, truly, lovely. And I learned quite a bit from doing it, which is what Mr. Oliver intended, educator that he is. And it did only take about 30 minutes, once we had laid out the ingredients and equipment.
But Leandro started by refusing to try it at all, and then, unable to resist the macaroni and cheese part (did I tell you it has creme fraiche!?!) he started eating, but not without flicking the cauliflower bits off his fork with the tip of his finger, which was not at all the point of this exercise.
Eventually he was convinced that eating some of the cauliflower would be the correct strategy if he ever wanted to have dessert again (he’s lucky I didn’t make the stewed fruit that was on the Jamie’s menu with the macaroni; he would have hated that!), but he wasn’t too keen, and now I have quite a lot of leftover scandalously luscious macaroni and cheese (with bacon! with bacon!) in the freezer that I won’t eat because of vanity and he won’t eat because of bloody-mindedness…do you think if I bung more cheese on the top I can use it for quickie meal reheats? I think I can. And even if I can’t, I will.
This is a fantastic idea for a buffet dinner party and I will seriously consider it for our next potluck. This kind of richness should be spread around a much larger, more appreciative audience!
Cauliflower Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from one of my heroes: Jamie Oliver)
4 rashers thick-cut bacon
1 large head cauliflower
1lb macaroni elbows
½ Tbs salt
8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cloves garlic
4 thick slices of country bread (day-old preferred) in chunks with the crust ON
1 Cup crème fraiche
Parmigiano reggiano to serve
Preheat oven to 425°F and place an oven rack on the highest position.
Lay bacon on a 9 x 13 oven dish and place on the high rack in the oven for about ten minutes (until cooked through, but not crispy). Do not turn off oven or remove bacon from dish just yet.
Meanwhile, heat abundant water to boil in a large pot (or heat water in an electric kettle, if following Jamie’s speedy style). Clean and quarter the cauliflower taking off most of the stem. Place stem down in boiling water with pasta (or pour the boiling water from the kettle over) and cook according to pasta package directions. When you drain, put the colander over a bowl to reserve pasta water. You will need at least 1 1/3 Cups of that water.
Grate the cheese and set aside. Pound the mustard seed and rosemary to a powder in a mortar and pestle. Peel and chop the garlic. Place mustard and rosemary powder, garlic, and bread in food processor with the cooked bacon (do not wash out the baking dish; you will be cooking the pasta in it) and pulse until you get rustic crumbs.
Place the baking dish over the burners, turn the pasta and cauliflower into the baking dish where you cooked the bacon, and turn on low heat. Add 1 1/3 Cups pasta water, Cheddar cheese and crème fraiche. Stir it all together, gently breaking up the cauliflower. Add a bit more pasta water if the texture is not loose. Salt to taste, then sprinkle crumbs over the top. Bake on highest rack for 8 minutes or until golden. Top with grated Parmigiano and serve.