White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford's holiday Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese looked like a glorious mess on this year's dinner buffets for President Obama and First Lady Obama's receptions. But it tasted delicious, and the use of pureed white cauliflower in the sauce made it a healthier version of the beloved classic dish. The recipe is below, adapted from Comerford's own recipe included in Mrs. Obama's book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. This year is the first time recipes from the book starred on the White House holiday menus, and Comerford made some changes. (Above, the Presidential dinner buffet in the State Dining Room)
The First Family has an avowed affection for macaroni and cheese, and it is included on their annual Thanksgiving menu. It will also be served this year at their private Christmas dinner in Hawaii, Mrs. Obama says.
For the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, Comerford added florets of purple and green cauliflower. These boosted the flavor and texture, as well as added pops of color that are liberally used in Mrs. Obama's 'Joy to all' decor scheme. The Top Toque also sprinkled Panko bread crumbs on top, which gave an unexpected crunch. (Above, the dish on the buffet in the East Room)
Comerford is also offering the President and Mrs. Obama's 14,000 guests American Grown Winter Greens Salad, made with pomegranates and Cajun-spiced walnuts; Green Beans and Almonds; and Sweet Potato Quick Bread, made as tiny muffins and served on the turkey and honey-baked ham carving station. (Above, the Green Beans and Almonds)
Other foods on the Presidential buffets included rare roast beef and lamb chops; smoked salmon and crab from Maine; oysters from Fisher's Island, New York; Gulf Coast shrimp (the holiday recipe); Latkes and tiny garlic potatoes (the holiday recipe); a selection of artisan cheese served with crackers and fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, and dinner rolls.
Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' lavish dessert buffets included Sticky Toffee Pudding, coconut cake, Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing, Yule logs, Strawberry and chocolate mousse, a selection of cookies (all the recipes are here), double crust-fruit pies, including Apple Pie and Huckleberry Pie, and handcrafted chocolates sent from Burdick Chocolate in New Hampshire. (The Sticky Toffee Pudding, above)
The Cauliflower Mac and Cheese serves four or more, depending on portion size, and can be a side dish or a main course. In keeping with Mrs. Obama's healthy eating campaign, it calls for low-fat milk and whole wheat Penne pasta.
White House Holiday Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
*1/2 pound whole-wheat Penne pasta
*1/4 head white cauliflower, cut onto florets
*1 cup steamed green and purple cauliflower florets
*8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
*1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
*1/2 Cup 1% or 2% milk
*Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*1 1/2 Tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
*1 Cup Panko bread crumbs
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, add the cauliflower, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Drain. Place the cauliflower in a blender and puree.
3. In a medium pan over medium heat, place the pasta, the cauliflower puree, the cheeses, and the milk. Stir gently to combine and continue stirring until the cheese is melted.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the green and purple cauliflower florets.
5. Transfer to casserole dish. Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs on top, and place under broiler until browned, about 5-7 minutes.
6. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the Mac and Cheese and serve immediately.
*Serves 4 or more, depending on portion size.
Above, a photo of a guest's holiday plate, with the Mac and Cheese, roast beef, a lamb chop, salad, roasted potatoes, and green beans and almonds.
Click here for links to all posts about the 2012 holidays, including recipes and instructions for White House craft projects. (Above, a view of the dinner buffet in the East Room)
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama