There are a lot of reasons I could never be a vegan, but macaroni and cheese hovers near the top of the list. You want me to live without steak, without chicken, without honey and leather? Fine, I accept your challenge. To eschew fur, fish, and eggs? You're on. But take away my macaroni and cheese and I'll drown in a sea of my own pathetic tears.
I will say this, however: the macaroni is usually overrated. Oh, I've got nothing against a nice al dente elbow-shaped noodle, but if we're speaking candidly most of us will admit we're in it for one thing and one thing only, and it sure as hell isn't the pasta.
So why not get creative?
Recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
There's no macaroni in this dish, but you'll feel like you're eating macaroni and cheese nonetheless. I tip my hat to Devin Alexander's Fast Food Fix (Rodale, 2006), a book whose macaroni and cheese recipe inspired this sauce.
Serves 4, as a side
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-1/2-inch florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk, divided
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the cauliflower florets on a rimmed baking sheet. (Munch the raw stalks as you go.) Drizzle the florets with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and a grinding of black pepper.
Roast for 15 minutes, give a careful toss with a spatula, then finish roasting for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until deeply browned and caramelized in spots and nutty-smelling.
Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce. Combine the flour and 2 tablespoons of the milk in a small nonstick saucepan and whisk until smooth. (A nonstick whisk is ideal here if you have one.) Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth.
Place over medium heat and stir in the cheese and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or your nonstick whisk, for three minutes or until the mixture bubbles steadily.
When the cauliflower has finished roasting, toss it in the sauce and stir to coat. Serve hot.