Mac and Cheese (with Cauliflower and Leeks)

Life has been really busy. Late hours at work for both my husband & I, visits from out of town friends, and just life. In the mist of all of it we celebrated my husband’s birthday last week. I always make him anything he would like for his birthday. In years past he has asked for things like hamburgers, ice cream cake, fresh fruit, and sushi. You can see how this fumbles me each year. I may have a culinary degree and be able to make just about anything but it is these simple tasks that daunt me. This year Brian wanted a steak. When I asked him how he would like it prepared or what would he like with it he responded -”Just grilled?!?” How can I just grill something? I can do not get me wrong I grill a mean steak; but I cannot only serve a steak. I thought the steak needed a something rich and comforting to compliment it. A doctored up Mac and Cheese would be perfection. By adding sautéed cauliflower and leeks to it will not only lighten it up, it will add a ton of flavor that will accent it really nicely. Creamy baked mac and cheese doctored up leads a simply grilled steak to a meal worthy of serving for a birthday. Give it a try; I know you will be going back for seconds as we did.

Mac and Cheese (with Cauliflower and Leeks) serves 4 – 6

3 tbsp of butter

1 tbsp of flour

2 cups of milk

8 oz of Gruyere Cheese (grated)

8 oz of Macaroni (small shaped is best)

1 cup of leeks (chopped small)

1 ½ - 2 cups of small cauliflower florets

½ cup of bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive Oil to brush your pan

First, in a sauce pan melt 1 tbsp of your butter over medium heat. Add you flour to the melted butter and stir to form a past that begins to sizzle. With a whisk; stir in your milk slowly and bring to a simmer. Once you milk is simmering and stirring constantly place aside to cool slightly.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. While your oven is heating place a 4 quart pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil.  Add in your macaroni and cook about 2 minutes less than the box suggests; stirring it constantly.  When your macaroni is cooked drain and set aside until needed.

Meanwhile, place a sauté pan over medium heat. Melt in 1 tbsp of butter and add in your leeks and cauliflower. Stirring them constantly; also be sure to season it all with salt and pepper. Cook until your leeks are transparent and your cauliflower is tender when pierced.

Then, brush a 9 – 10 inch pie plate with olive oil. In a large bowl place your macaroni, cauliflower and leeks, along with all the grated gruyere. Toss it all together and place it all in your prepared pie plate. Pour your cooked milk over the prepared macaroni until you see it reach the top of your plate without it poring over. Sprinkle the top of it with your bread crumbs and dot it with your remaining tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in the oven to bake about 30 minutes.

Finally, when your mac and cheese is golden and bubbly it is ready. (About 30 minutes, but check at 20 minutes to be sure.) Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Scoop and serve while still warm.

*Note: This recipe is even great as leftovers, if you have any.