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Monday, October 13, 2008

cheesy baked penne with cauliflower and creme fraiche

cheesy baked penne with cauliflower and creme fraiche

The full page photo of this dish in October's Bon Appetit sucked me in - I'm always a sucker for a new mac-and-cheese recipe. This proved to be the most complicated m&c dish I've ever attempted, but also the richest and most flavorful. The different cheeses are all pricey though, so it won't be something I make all the time. (Yes, I do realize how contradictory this is with my last post about choosing cheaper cuts of meat. There's a reason I don't work in finance...)

Grocery list: 1 head of cauliflower, 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 5 T butter, 1 bunch green onions, 2 T AP flour, 1c heavy cream, 3 c grated Comte cheese (half Fontina & half Gruyere is listed as the substitute if you can't find Comte - approx 9oz), 3/4 c grated Parmesan, 1 c creme fraiche, 1T whole grain Dijon mustard, 3.5 (10oz) penne, 1 cup breadcrumbs (I substituted panko).

blanched cauliflower

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil. Wash and chop the cauliflower into 1 inch florets, then cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon, then drop in both whole tomatoes and boil for 1 minute.

blanching heirloom tomatoes

Carefully remove them from the water and turn off the heat. Set the hot water aside though, so you can reuse it for cooking the pasta.

ingredients for creme fraiche penne

Blanching the tomatoes will help you peel them, as the skin should almost fall off. Chop the tomatoes. At this point you should grate the Comte, chop the green onions, and get everything set up for making the cheese sauce.

sauteing cauliflower tomatoes and green onions

Melt 2T of butter in a large skillet over med-high heat, then cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and the chopped green onions and cook for another minute.

cauliflower green onion and tomato filling for penne

Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

flour and butter for creme fraiche sauce

Melt 2T of butter in a saucepan over med-low heat, then add flour and stir for 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream slowly.

heavy cream and butter sauce

Now, this was different than most white sauces, since the cream has such a higher fat content. I kept whisking it, but the fat started separating out and I thought the whole thing was ruined. But I turned down the heat and kept whisking and it reconstituted once I added the cheese in, but wanted to point this out in case the same thing happens.

comte dijon creme fraiche sauce

Add 2 cups of the grated Comte, and whisk until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, then the creme fraiche and 1 T Dijon. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Bring the large pot of water back to a boil and cook the penne for 10 minutes. Drain and immediately return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and the cauliflower mixture.

layering cheesy cauliflower penne with comte

Spoon half the pasta mixture into a baking dish, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Comte. Layer the rest of the pasta and the Comte on top.

cheesy penne ready to bake

The recipe calls for melting 1 T of butter and toasting the breadcrumbs at this point, but I skipped this step. I mixed the rest (1/4 cup) of the Parmesan with a cup of panko and spread across the top of the casserole.

cheesy penne with cauliflower

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.

1 comment:

teddi said...

you lost me at 'the most complicated dish ...'