Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jan 14, 2014

Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese

Libations used: 1/2 cup dry white wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so pour yourself a glass while that Mac is bakin'...
Alright, so I ate healthy right after the holidays, but time to throw back in some comfort food.  I started a new job this week, so it's been an exhilarating start to the new year.  I wanted to create a special meal for myself to celebrate on Sunday night, and also have some leftovers for the week!  Since cauliflower is the "it" vegetable right now and I at least wanted to still include something healthful in my meal, I opted for this Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese from Food & Wine.  The recipe comes by way of Renato Sardo and Dario Barbone of Baia Pasta, a company based in Oakland, California that sources and produces its pasta here in the U.S.  The cauliflower, which is cooked in white wine, lends the dish a nice texture, and your momma will be proud that you're getting your veggie intake.  There's plenty of creamy Taleggio and Parmigiano-Reggiano to put you in your cheesy happy place too.  I served this with Nancy Silverton's famous and delightfully Italian Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies - because you never have too much cheese...
Cauliflower Mac n' Cheese - serves 6
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 1 3/4 lb), cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Toasted Head Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 6 oz)
  • 1/2 lb Taleggio cheese, rind discarded and cubed
  • 1 lb large shells (I used conchiglioni)
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 450.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and then add the cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until tender.
- When cauliflower is done, place in a bowl of cold water to cool.  Let the hot water in the pot remain though!
- In a medium pot, melt the butter in olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, and cook until softened (about 3 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes (they should be browned a little in spots).
- Add the wine and let cook until it's evaporated.
- Meanwhile, return the water in the large pot to a boil.
- Remove the pot of cauliflower from the heat and stir in all of the Taleggio and 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Let that pot sit while you cook the pasta until it's al dente.
- Drain the pasta and then return it to the large pot.
- Add the cauliflower and cheese mixture to the pot and gently stir until thoroughly combined.
- Add half of the pasta into a 3 quart baking dish and top with about 2 Tbs of the bread crumbs.
- Top with the remaining pasta, followed by the rest of the bread crumbs and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Bake the pasta for 20 minutes and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.