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Michael Symon's Top Tip For Cauliflower Mac And Cheese

Chef Michael Symon
Chef Michael Symon - Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

Celebrity chef and James Beard Award winner Michael Symon knows how to make dairy-free macaroni and "cheese" taste delicious. Courtesy of Food Network's "Daily Dinner with Michael Symon," the former host of "The Chew" shared with viewers that the key to a successful cauliflower mac and cheese is to caramelize the cauliflower before pureeing it into the sauce. To give it a tastier, toastier, all-around deeper flavor, he advises chopping the cauliflower into small pieces and cooking it in oil (or butter if you're not worried about dairy) in a pan on the stove until lightly golden. While simply boiling the cauliflower is "fine," he says, caramelizing it first will improve its flavor, adding a sweet nuttiness that will take your dairy-free cauliflower mac and cheese to the next level.

After the cauliflower caramelizes in the pan, you can add the liquid of your choice to finish cooking it until tender for pureeing. Always the champion of adaptable recipes, Symon advises using water, vegetable stock, chicken or beef stock, or whatever tickles your tastebuds. The creamy vegetable sauce is a perfect tasty substitute for the cheese in your macaroni if you're dairy-free, limiting your dairy, or want to get your kid to eat more veggies (you don't even have to tell them it's "faux cheese"). As Symon points out, if you don't want or need to eat dairy-free and want to add some cheese to the sauce or as a topping, go for it. For a cheesy version, try making Instant Pot cauliflower mac and cheese.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Cauliflower Sauce Is A Creamy And Versatile Substitute For Cheese

Person chopping cauliflower on cutting board
Person chopping cauliflower on cutting board - AtlasStudio/Shutterstock

Born during peak pandemic lockdown, "Daily Dinners" is a video series Symon filmed (with a cell phone) from his kitchen to provide easy, adaptable dinners that incorporate common pantry ingredients. Symon, who learned that sugar and dairy trigger his arthritis pain, has found ways to get creative in the kitchen by substituting ingredients for dairy products like cheese. Cauliflower is perfect for making a creamy, delicious and nutritious sauce for your macaroni and also pairs well with other flavor boosters like onions and garlic. Whether you use fresh cauliflower, frozen cauliflower, or cauliflower rice, they can all be caramelized and cooked the same way before pureeing.

While Symon uses cauliflower to create a white, creamy mac, if you prefer the traditional orange color, he says to try adding some sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, or pumpkin along with the cauliflower. When you throw it in the blender, you'll achieve that vibrant, classic orange color that kids especially love — dairy-free.

You can also freeze some of the sauce and use it later in other recipes, says Symon. For instance, if you're making soup and want to boost the creaminess without adding dairy, add some of the cauliflower sauce. You could also thin the sauce out a little bit, he says, and it would make a great cauliflower soup on its own.

Other Mac Tips From Chef Symon

Baked macaroni and cheese
Baked macaroni and cheese - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

After caramelizing and cooking the cauliflower, Chef Symon says that for the creamiest mac and cheese, you need a blender instead of a food processor to puree the veggies into an extra smooth sauce. Any type of noodles can be used in your cauliflower mac — pour the sauce over traditional elbow macaroni, or try spaghetti for an alfredo feel.

Fielding questions from viewers, Symon advises that macaroni can be made entirely in the oven or on the stove, but he finds the oven versions can overcook and "get a little goopy," while the stovetop gives you more control. However, to achieve a crust on the top, you'll need to use the oven. After Symon pours the cauliflower sauce on the mac, he tops it with breadcrumbs, herbs, and a dairy-free Parmesan concoction and broils it in the oven for just a couple of minutes to get a perfectly crunchy coating on top of the creamy noodles.

Symon, who admits he doesn't own a microwave, says it's easy enough to reheat the cauliflower mac in the oven by covering it in foil. While small portions can be microwaved, using the oven is a great way to reheat larger portions of food, whether it's leftovers or meals you've made ahead of time. To make sure it doesn't dry out, you can opt to add a little moisture back into the dish by pouring in some stock, milk, or even just a bit of water.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.