Time to say cheeeez! Add there cauli, low-carber’s most-loved veggie which lends itself to all sorts of dishes. Together they form this ultimate low-carb comfort food! No need for macaroni, the good old cauliflower replaces this starchy and gluten-filled ingredient in a perfect way. Cream and Cheddar cheese bring richness to satisfy even the biggest hunger.
Tips for making the 5-Ingredient Cauli ‘n’ Cheese
Making this dish is easy. Let’s take a look how it goes:
Place the cauliflower chunks in a large saucepan.
Pour over some boiling water…
…so that the cauliflower chunks are barely covered by the water. Cook, covered, over high heat for 10 minutes or until crisp-tender…
…like this. Pour out all the water. Be careful, it’s hot! Set the cauliflower aside.
Place the cream, egg and the mustard in a large saucepan.
Heat over medium heat, mixing all the time, until the mixture starts boiling and has got slightly thicker. I like to use a gravy whisk, it’s really handy here.
Whoops! At this point I realized that I had completely forgotten to add the mustard. In case you don’t have dry mustard or ground mustard seeds, you can use any unsweetened mustard, like Dijon. In any case, the mustard is good to add in the very beginning, with the cream and egg.
Now the sauce is gently bubbling and has got slightly thicker. Time to turn the heat to the minimum.
Add the cheese 1 cup at a time and mix well, continuously.
After you have added all the cheese and mixed well, the sauce should be thick, smooth and velvety. You can taste the sauce (carefully, it’s hot!) and add more salt or other spices if needed.
Now, just add the cauliflower…
…and stir well with a spoon. Ready!
Aaaand here is the recipe:
|Nutrition information||Protein||Fat||Net carbs||kcal|
|In total:||80.4 g||166.3 g||23.0 g||1912 kcal|
|Per serving if 6 servings in total:||13.4 g||27.7 g||3.8 g||319 kcal|
|Per serving if 8 servings in total:||10.1 g||20.8 g||2.9 g||239 kcal|
My Cauli ‘n’ Cheese experiments
I have to admit that developing this recipe wasn’t really a breeze. My first experiment looked fantastic and tasted okay, but the texture was the weirdest. I had just placed frozen cauliflower florets to a baking dish and added a mixture of cream, egg, mustard and shredded cheese on top. I still sprinkled an ample amount of shredded cheese on top before baking.
I had baked the whole thing for 45 minutes in a 350 °F (175 °C) oven after which the cauliflower was still raw, the cheese hadn’t melted and all the solids were swimming in a liquid cream. So to say, the result was far from appetizing even it looked good. Well, in the end I think anything looks good with some melted, slightly browned cheese on top…
Here you see a photo of that first experiment. Doesn’t look too bad, does it? Well, beauty is only skin-deep.
I learnt my lesson and in my next experiment cooked the cauliflower almost soft and tender. I definitely didn’t want to have raw cauliflower in my Cauli ‘n’ Cheese. Otherwise I did everything in a similar way than in my first experiment. I guess that’s why the result didn’t differ too much from the first experiment either. Well, the cauliflower wasn’t raw, but all the solids were still floating in liquid cream.
Next, I thought that I really have to cook the sauce and not just add all ingredients to a baking dish. I was just hoping to make things as easy as possible, but it didn’t seem to work like that in reality. Cooking the sauce was a must.
I took my cream and mustard and placed them in a saucepan. I boiled the mixture and added cheese gradually. At first it looked that the cheese was melting perfectly, creating a thick and velvety sauce. After the third cup of shredded cheese, I noticed that the cheese starts forming lumps. I increased the heat, hoping that the lumps will melt — that often helps when making cheese fondue.
No way, the lumps didn’t disappear but just wrapped tightly around the gravy whisk that I was using. What a mess! I realized that I have to add something to thicken the sauce. When making fondue, you add starch for that reason. The starch helps the cheese melt. A thickening agent is just a must when making cheese fondue. Since I try to be completely starch-free nowadays, the usual thickeners like potato or corn starch were out of the question now.
Well, I’ve actually made fondue and used guar gum instead of starch. It worked quite okay, but very typically was creating a slightly slimy texture. Now I had three options to thicken my Cauli ‘n’ Cheese: guar gum, xanthan or glucomannan. I decided to try out how glucomannan works.
I added a pinch of glucomannan powder while whisking vigorously. A miracle happened! The cheese lumps started melting in the sauce. I added another pinch to ensure that the cheese melts completely.
The result was a smooth sauce, however it was slightly slimy because of glucomannan. Thus, I wasn’t completely satisfied, but luckily my husband was.
I was pondering other options to thicken the sauce. All my favorite thickeners guar gum, xanthan and glucomannan tend to make the food slimy. Maybe perfect for Halloween (I just love Halloween!), but not for comfort food.
It suddenly appeared to me, that egg would be a perfect thickening agent. It’s used in custards and in some sauces, so why wouldn’t it work here as well?
I took a saucepan and placed the cream, one egg and mustard there. I whisked until smooth and started heating the mixture. After a short while the mixture was smooth and slightly thick. Wonderful! I took a cup (240 ml) of shredded cheese and excitedly added it, whisking all the time.
The cheese melted immediately. I took a second cup of cheese and added it. Again, it melted beautifully. Also the third cup of cheese melted and the sauce was thick and smooth. I just added the cooked cauliflower chunks and mixed properly. Looked good! Goal reached! Except, I still wanted to try out how the Cauli ‘n’ Cheese would bake.
I placed the mixture in a glass baking dish and sprinkled 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) shredded cheese on top. I baked the whole thing for 45 minutes. Far too long, as I later realized. Just 20 minutes in the oven would be enough, so that the cheese melts but the cauliflower doesn’t get mushy and the sauce too firm.
All in all, I was happy with the unbaked version of my Cauli ‘n’ Cheese but baking it made the dish a tad more sophisticated.
Well, maybe next time when we are making cheese fondue I try to add an egg to thicken it. Very unorthodox, but I don’t care if it works! No need for starch or slimy guar gum, xanthan or glucomannan!
Tips for variation
This is just a basic version of the dish. You can tweak it to you liking very easily.
I found out that mustard was accompanying the cauliflower and cheese in a superb way. You can naturally replace the mustard with some other spices or use them in addition. My favorite is Garlic Bread Seasoning. In the above photo there is a variation where I have used 1 teaspoon Garlic Bread Seasoning instead of mustard. That was also very delicious.
Crushed garlic, sauteed onion, different herbs, black and white pepper all go well with this dish. Just use your favorites.
You can replace 1 cup (240 ml) of the Cheddar with another type of cheese, like fontina, provolone, mozzarella or American Cheese, basically with any cheese that melts.
I prefer this easy, unbaked version, but you can take the Cauli ‘n’ Cheese to the next level by baking it in the oven. Just preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C) before you start doing preparations. Follow the directions. Pour the ready mixture of cheese sauce and cauliflower in a 2.5 qt (2.4 l) baking dish. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) Cheddar cheese on top.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Don’t bake too long, as the sauce will get too firm.