In my house, the idea of a “soup swap” has a slightly different definition and purpose. Swapping an ingredient that I know my young children will eat for one that incites their resistance, while mostly maintaining the original dish’s flavor and texture, is my new culinary mission.
This week, it was cauliflower-leek soup masquerading as a much-appreciated potato-leek soup. Both had a smooth, creamy texture, without the addition of any cream. Both were topped with cheese and crispy bacon. And both whet the appetite of my younger son, at least, who polished off multiple portions. My older son, suffice it to say, wasn’t so complimentary.
Indeed, cauliflower isn’t a dead ringer for potatoes and should be appreciated in its own right. But the lower carbohydrate content of the former has inspired plenty of substitutions for the latter over the past decade or so. Adding some cooked and mashed cauliflower to mashed potatoes is a favorite technique of at least one local chef I’ve interviewed over the years.
When cooked, cauliflower even becomes creamy enough to mimic dairy, in the right context. I had to admit in a 2015 post that adding cauliflower to fettuccine Alfredo is a delicious way to cut some calories from the traditional dish. I’ve also seen the vegetable touted as faux ricotta cheese to fill lasagna.
Although it’s far from dairy- or fat-free, this take on “loaded” baked potatoes adds a few more flourishes to classic cauliflower-cheese.
Loaded Cauliflower Bake
2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or favorite cheddar cheese blend
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Morton’s Nature’s Season Seasoning blend, to taste (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced scallions
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the cauliflower florets for 2 minutes.
Drain florets well and transfer to a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, for 1 minute. Add the flour and stir until golden, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring to a low simmer. Add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar until melted; season with the salt and pepper.
Taste and, if you like, add the seasoning blend and pinch cayenne pepper. Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower and stir until combined. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon each of the cooked bacon and scallions until combined, then top with remaining cheddar, bacon and scallions.
Bake in preheated oven until cauliflower is tender and cheese is bubbly and thickened, for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipe adapted by the Detroit Free Press from www.delish.com.