Once in a while I get home from work and it’s just been one of those days when it is all I can do within my power not to rip open a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese and gorg myself on all that I feel is unholy about food – don’t even ask me why I have it in my home…
This happened this past Monday due to a combination of not enough sleep over the weekend, a call out at work, bad brow day, and general malaise about the 9 to 5 life, also known as “The Usual”.
After a series of “I’m over it…” and “I am so out of sh*ts to give already” text conversations with various friends, I had pushed my dietary neuroses aside and decided something gluteny, cheesy, and most likely artificially flavored was definitely on the dinner horizon. My 8:45pm office departure time only exacerbated the issue so as I bolted through the office doors I had accepted my fate, and already moved onto the caloric denial phase that usually hits the next morning.
I’m not sure if it was the few lingering joggers I passed on the walk home, or a second wind of self-discipline that overcame me as I pranced along to Rihanna Pandora, but by the time I reached my front door I had decided to do battle against the Mac & Cheese urge. I am never really one to indulge emotional extremes (cough, cough).
I chose my weapons carefully; red wine (obviously) to clear the mind, cheese to feed the demon inside, cauliflower to fill the starchy void, and finally prosciutto…just because. In other words, I would recreate Mac & Cheese, less the guilt. I used a combination of parmigano for the piquancy and salt, mozzarella for the goo factor, and taleggio for the earthy, meaty flavor it imparts. Adding rosemary, just because of how well it plays with pork, added the level of sophistication and flavor balance that I just wasn’t willing to let go. The result, while not pretty, was indulgent, satisfying, and exactly what I needed to put this Monday to bed.
While this dish will never really replace Kraft Mac & Cheese, it can fill that emotional void and allows me to maintain my culinary pride and dietary compulsions despite trying circumstances. Cauliflower is one of my favorite late season vegetables with which to work and I have no doubt this dish will repeat throughout the fall and winter, at least as long as there are days like Monday.
Cauliflower & Prosciutto – “Mac & Cheese”
- 1 large head of cauliflower – chopped into uniform 1-1 ½ in pieces
- 3 oz taleggio – chopped into ½ in cubes
- 4 oz shredded mozzarella
- 3 oz grated parmigiano
- 3 oz prosciutto di parma "San Daniele" – chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a small baking dish combine cauliflower, mozzarella, prosciutto, olive oil and rosemary, using a large spoon mix so ingredients are even distributed, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Tip: If you want to reduce cooking time, cook the cauliflower for 7 mins in boiling salted water, drain, and then put in the oven, I do this in a time crunch but find it can compromise the flavor.
- Bake for 20 mins, remove from oven and carefully drain excess moisture that may have drained from the mozzarella.
- Add taleggio evenly across the top, and cover in parmigiano, bake for an additional 20 mins until cheese is browned and cauliflower is tender.
- Serve in a colorful bowl!