The Obamas’ Favorite Mac n Cheese with Cauliflower
Adapted by The Lady from Sara Yoo’s adaptation from “American Grown: The Story of the White house Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” by Michelle Obama, published May 29, 2012.
The Lady and I subscribe to several “Google Alerts” and as you might guess one is “Cheese”. This particular alert has introduced us to the worldwide love affair with cheese, the Colorado-based musical group, The String Cheese Incident, and the strange events that occur far-too-frequently at Chuck E. Cheese.
Yesterday, a link to an adaptation of Sasha and Malia Obama’s favorite “Cauliflower Mac n Cheese” popped up. Being a curious feline, I asked The Lady to check it out and upon reading Sara Yoo’s adaptation of our First Lady’s recipe, we decided to adapt it yet again to fit our personal tastes.
Sara Yoo’s comments/changes: “Despite multiple steps (and my addition of a trip into the oven), this mac and cheese recipe is incredibly fast and easy to put together. Though the first lady’s recipe doesn’t specify a means to cook the cauliflower, I chose to steam the florets and use the steaming liquid in the puree to infuse more of that great flavor into the dish. A crunchy breadcrumb crust is another addition to the original.”
The Lady further adapted Mrs. Obama’s recipe with the addition of sautéed chicken thighs, scallions, garlic, fresh basil, oregano, chives (all from her herb garden) and fresh asparagus. She also added more Parmigiano-Reggiano, panko and fresh herbs to the bread crumb topping. The Lady also used 1% milk (because that’s all she’s got…)
EVOO to Sauté the chicken thighs and oil the casserole dish
4 Foster Farms Chicken Thighs, salted and peppered generously (we only use Foster Farms chicken at The Manse)
1/2 pound fresh Asparagus, Chopped; use raw; do NOT cook
2 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
1 Scallion, Sliced thin and Chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese – divided in half
Large Bunch of Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, Oregano, Basil and Chives from The Lady’s Herb Garden – Divided in Half and chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs and ½ cup Panko Crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. (The Lady cooks the pasta closer to the end and doesn’t rinse it; just drains it.)
- Sauté Foster Farms chicken thighs in EVOO. Set aside in dish to collect chicken juice for your favorite feline and reserve oils in sauté pan. When cool, chop chicken to bite size pieces.
- Using the oils left in the sauté pan, sauté the scallions and garlic until just brown. Set aside.
- Steam the cauliflower until soft, about 10 minutes. Let cool a bit and then add to blender along with a ½ cup of the liquid used for steaming. Puree the cauliflower, adding more liquid to thin the puree if needed.
- Using EVOO, oil a large casserole dish.
- Combine the pasta and hot cauliflower puree. Add the milk, cheeses (only half of the Parm/Reg), chicken, raw asparagus, garlic, scallions, parsley, basil and oregano. Transfer to oiled casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, breadcrumbs, panko crumbs, and remainder of parsley, basil and oregano, remainder of the shredded Parm/Reg with your fingers until it resembles tiny pebbles. Sprinkle across the top of the mac n cheese mixture.
- Place the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes until the top is crispy and the sauce is bubbling.
Feline Foodie note: The Man, The Lady and your favorite Feline Foodie found it to be a bit dry for our tastes (we like it creamier) but the flavor was splendid. You could taste the cauliflower without it overpowering the cheeses.
While we understand using the cauliflower instead of a roux makes for a healthier mac n cheese, a nice cheese sauce makes for a cheesier mac n cheese…