Recipe 44: Vegan Green Chile Mac N “Cheese”

Hello!  I’ve been away from this blog for quite a while.  I haven’t been eating anywhere near as much mac and cheese, though I’ve stopped the anti-inflammatory diet that I mentioned in my last post.  Turns out it wasn’t as helpful as previously hoped = though this recipe probably would have fit under its guidelines, actually.

I know, it says vegan.  It’s OK.  It scared me, too.

One of the most intimidating things about making a vegan “cheese” sauce is that it takes so many steps that I’m not accustomed to.  Making a roux and melting a variety of cheeses in it – that’s what I’ve gotten used to.  This required steps like “soak cashews overnight” and mixing things up in a blender.

The other intimidating thing about making a vegan “cheese” is the fact that it’s a vegan “cheese.”  To be clear, I have nothing against vegans, but I have had commercially made vegan “cheese” and found it, in a word, lacking.  Even the best I had never had the same taste, texture, or consistency that I love about cheese.  It was never as smooth, as creamy, nor did it have any of the natural flavors – the bite of a sharp cheddar, the tang of a goat cheese – that come with real cheeses.  I definitely entered into this recipe with serious doubts as to how it would turn out.

 

Vegan Green Chili Mac N “Cheese” (from The Minimalist Baker)

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces large macaroni shells (I used rice elbows)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight, then drained (I did mine overnight)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (mine was homemade)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 4-ounce can diced chiles – scoop half into the sauce, reserve half for the finished mac n cheese
  • Optional: 1 cup tortilla chips, fresh cilantro for topping (I didn’t do this, but it might have helped)

Directions

If topping with tortilla chips, crush chips into fine crumbs and add to a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Spritz with olive or canola oil, sprinkle with salt and stir, then bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Boil macaroni according to package instructions.  In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, sautee onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook until soft and fragrant – about 7 minutes. Set aside.  Add onions and garlic to a blender with remaining ingredients, omitting the tortilla chips and adding only half of the green chilies. Blend until smooth, using the “liquify” setting if you have it to get it really smooth. Otherwise just blend for up to a minute, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth and creamy.  Drain the noodles, set aside and cover (with a towel). To the same pot you boiled the noodles in, add the cashew cheese and cook on low stirring frequently until slightly thickened.  Add the macaroni noodles to the cheese, along with the remaining green chilies and stir. Serve immediately, topping with crushed toasted tortilla chips and cilantro (optional).

[apparently I didn’t take a picture, or if I did I can’t find it]

Verdict: 2.5/5

Some of what was wrong with this, was my own shortcomings: I only have an immersion blender (at one point our apartment had somehow accumulated three!), a new one whose strength I’m still learning.  Apparently it was not up to the task of liquefying the “cheese” sauce.  It cut through those cashews without any problem – I had worried that even with an overnight soaking, they might be difficult to cut through – but it really couldn’t get smooth, liquid.  As a result, the texture was halfway between chunky and gritty.  It was not bad, but it wasn’t really good either.

I also was overhasty in my chile selection in the grocery store, and I grabbed a can of jalapenos.  I found it a little spicy for my taste, though not as hot as I worried it would be with my wussy palette.

Still, I feel these flaws are more from my kitchen than from the recipe.  The flavor of the sauce, despite the unpleasant consistency, was actually pretty good.  I really can’t liken it to cheese, to be honest (I had read the nutritional yeast was supposed to have a cheesy flavor), but it was a fine flavor.  I would give this another go.

 

I never made my goal of making 52 mac and cheese recipes for 2012, but I still have so, so many recipes.  I may be sporadic in my updates, but I’m sure I’ll be updating a bit still.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in some of my other goings on in the kitchen and elsewhere, check out my other blog, Domestic Dalliances.

 

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