Friday, March 29, 2013

Funky Cabbage Flowers - Lumaconi al Forno con Cavolfiore

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you are probably aware of just how much of a cheese head I am.  In fact I have never met a cheese that I didn't like.

Then again, there are 2 cheeses that I do not consider to be cheeses.  One is the so called "American Cheese".  While I will admit that it does have it's uses in some, though very few, culinary pursuits, I find the fact that it is often labeled as "Processed Cheese Food Product" to be extremely disturbing.  The other is the Brunost/Mesost/Mysuostur/Myseost (Brown cheese), usually sold under the red Ski Queen label as Gjetost.  (yay-toast)  This is a "whey cheese", like ricotta. Unlike ricotta, however, this whey is cooked down until all the milk proteins caramelize.  It's similar to what happens when you cook sweetened condensed milk to make dulce de leche.  This gives it a really sweet flavor and a texture kind of like cold peanut butter.  Eww!  Sorry, this "cheese" does not speak to my Scandinavian roots. Nope, not a bit.

Bring on the funk!

It's true, I like my cheeses funky.  The funkier the better.  Seriously.  Good cheese should take you to Funky Town, otherwise you are wasting your time.  Look at Parmigiano-Reggiano.  There is a reason people refer to it as stinky cheese.  YET, it is of such paramount importance in SO many dishes that it has been dubbed the "Undisputed King of Cheeses".  Then there is Brie, the Queen.  Somewhat more subtle, but she don't smell like roses either.  There is definitely a slight ammonia odor to Brie and to a larger extent Camembert.  Roquefort....  Really goes without saying.  Limburger?  I actually LIKE Limburger, 1950's cartoon tropes aside, spread on Rye with Brown Mustard and Onion.  YUM! 

Needless to say, I was all kinds of excited when I saw Food & Wine's Taleggio and Cauliflower Mac & Cheese.  I am all about Cauliflower; especially in pasta dishes.  I have to admit that it smells funny when you are boiling or steaming it, but the flavor is always so delicate.  Taleggio is the same way, it's a pungent smelling cheese with a decidedly delicate flavor.  It's a washed rind cheese made from autumn and winter milk, after the cows have been brought down from the high pastures in the mountains.  Think of it as an Italian version of Brie or Camembert, in a way.  As it ages, it becomes softer on the inside, to the point of becoming gooey.  I was intrigued with the idea of this funky couple gettin' down with some baked pasta.  Taleggio is an EXCELLENT melting cheese.

Besides, I can always use another excuse to eat Taleggio, aside from consuming it with fresh peaches.  LOL
Taleggio & Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

(adapted from Food & Wine)
1 Cauliflower, cut into florets
1 TB Butter
3 Tb Olive Oil
1 large Shallot, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tsp Rosemary, minced
Black Pepper
4 oz White Wine
12 oz Heavy Cream
6 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
8 oz Taleggio, remove rind and cube
1 lb Lumaconi or Conchiglioni (go with the shells)
4 Tb Panko

Preheat the oven to 450F degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, break down the cauliflower into 1 inch florets.

Remove the rind from the Taleggio.

Cut into 1/2 inch chunks.

Cook the Cauliflower in the boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Move to cold water to stop cooking, then drain and let dry slightly.

Melt Butter with Olive oil in a large saute pan.

Add the Shallot and saute for 3 minutes.

Add Garlic & Rosemary, sauteing for 1-2 minutes more.
Add Cauliflower and cook for about 8 minutes, until it begins to brown.

Add White wine and cook until evaporated.

Remove the pan from the flame and add the Heavy Cream along with 4 oz of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, then stir to combine.

Add the chunks of Taleggio and stir. (The sauce will thicken as the Taleggio melts and pulls everything together)

Let the sauce cool while you boil the pasta.

Drain well.

Return to the pot.

Pour the unctuous Cauliflower & Taleggio sauce over the pasta.

Toss to coat well.

Spoon 1/2 of the pasta to a 13x9 inch baking dish and sprinkle with 2 TB of the Panko.

Spoon the remaining pasta over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 TB Panko.

Top with the remaining 2 TB Panko and 2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake for 15-20 minutes (until it begins to bubble and brown)

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

MMMMMM  Creamy, Crunchy, Cheesy, Cauliflowery goodness.  Smellin' kinda funky, but tasting divine!

How funky is your Mac & Cheese?


1 comment:

Patricia Taylor said...

Hubby and I have been eating a lot of cauliflower lately. This looks amazing!! Hooray for another limburger cheese lover! My grandmother introduced me to it when I was very young, it always makes me think of the wonderful times I spent with her and my grandfather.