When I first saw a recipe for a dairy free mac and cheese, I was super excited...that is until I saw that it called for a soy based cheese. Yeah, soy and I don't really care much for each other in high quantities. So, skip that one. Next up, another recipe claiming dairy free, which it was, but also tasted more like chicken soup than mac and cheese. Finally, tried another and again disappointed with the overall flavor and mouth feel.
Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that just screams "I'm here to comfort you!" Unfortunately, these recipes were more along the lines of "terribly sorry to get your hopes up." Yes, I know, I shouldn't expect to have a mac and cheese that's just like what mom used (and still does) make. That's when I realized I needed to think about what I wanted out of these dairy free promises.
What was it about these particular meal that I liked? What seemed to be missing from my previous attempts? When I started looking at things that way, I discovered that I wasn't getting what I wanted because those recipes weren't going to give me that.
First of all, I am big about mouth feel. I wanted velvety, rich and creamy. To add to that, I love a sharp cheddar bite so I needed some tang and deeper tones than a chicken broth could bring. Finally, I wanted to look at it and want to dive in because of the rich sunny color.
Keeping all this in mind, I threw out the chicken broth and grabbed some beer instead. Then I decided that carrots were not going to be creamy no matter how much they were pureed, but those sweet potatoes could fill in nicely. Let's not forget that amazing cheeseless pizza I had a few years back that used caramelized onions instead of cheese, and omg, the sweet tangy flavor that brought to the table.
All said and done, I now have a recipe I'll be turning back to because, well, I got what I wanted, and oh yeah, bacon...Is this going to be super kid friendly? Ehhhh, not with my picky eaters, but if your little one is adventurous, sure!
Also, if you would like to make this gluten free, get yourself some GF pasta and switch out the beer for some very dry chardonay. As for more vegan friendly, omit that bacon (::gasp::) and add on some more caramelized onions on top.
Dairy Free Mac n Cheese
1 medium sweet potato
2 medium sweet onions
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
a few dashes of salt
1/2 cup beer- a stronger body is better
1- 1 1/2 tsps Worchester sauce
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp celery salt
Box of small shell pasta or elbow pasta
Cooked and crumbled pork or turkey bacon (optional)
You will also need:
immersion blender, large pot, medium pot, large shallow pan with lid, deep medium bowl.
1. Peel your onions and thinly slice into half moon cuts. Break apart into the pan and add in the beer and a few dashes of salt. On lowest heat possible begin to caramelize your onions. This process, when done right, will take about an hour and half. You want your onions to become tender and a honey brown color when done and about a half the amount than what was originally put in. Keep your heat low, stir every so often and keep the lid on until the onions become transparent. Then you will want to remove lid and watch carefully making sure to stir often. Set to the side to cool.
2. Peel all your potatoes and cut into similar sized wedges, same for your sweet potato. Then add into your medium pot with the crushed cloves of garlic. Fill pot with water until everything is just submerged under the water. On medium low heat bring water to a boil, keep lid vented, and cook until fork tender.
3. Removed wedges of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and the garlic and put into your bowl along with half of the caramelized onions. Then carefully pour your reserved liquid on top. Using the immersion blender blend smooth. To get a more cheese like consistency, you will actually want to blend a little more than you would think until the mix becomes sticky. If it seems to dry, add in a little bit of water a few tbsps at a time. In the end you want this mix to be thick, creamy and very much like a fondue.
4. Boil water in the large pot and cook your pasta as instructed. When done save about a 1/2- 1 cup worth of boiled pasta water and drain pasta. Return pasta to the pot and pour potato mix on top along with the reserved water a little at a time until you are satisfied with consistency. Then add in your remaining seasonings, making sure to stir well.
5. Give the mixture a few minutes to cool down and meld the flavors together, then serve with a garnish of either the rest of the caramelized onions or the bacon, or both really.