So here’s my deal with the whole Vegan thing. Personally, I eat vegan food by default because of the whole “healthier for you” deal as well as the fact that many meals can be just as good without meat and dairy provided you get creative with it. The only time I’ll eat cheese is when it’s good cheese on it’s own (nom nom nom baked brie) and the only time I’ll eat meat is if I know it’s gong to be really good and will have no vegan alternative (nom nom nom sushi).
Now if you told me a month ago that there is a way to make mac and cheese that is almost – if not just – as good as the real thing I probably would have slapped you for shelling out such blasphemy.
That was until I tried my friend Stephanie of Detroit’s Gypsy Kitchen vegan potato au gratin. I was blown away with how delicious it was. Creamy, salty and quite cheesy in flavor. How did she do it? Cashews.
That did it for me. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hitting up the infamous Slows you know what good mac and cheese tastes like. It’s Anthony Bourdain’s favorite from what I hear, and it’s definitely mine. I initially wanted to base my flavors from theirs. I know It is a tall-order to base vegan mac and cheese on what’s probably the best. thing. ever. but I scrapped that idea when I realized that I’m not a restaurant. I’m at home, I can do what I damn well want with my mac and cheese so I brought out the truffle oil and went to town.
What happened turned out to be the Best. Thing. Ever.
Here’s what I did
- ½ Cup + 2 tbsp. cup of raw cashews
- 1 tsp. of granulated onion
- ½ tsp. of granulated garlic
- 1½ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup of nutritious yeast
- 1 ¾ cups of unsweetened soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. Earth Balance / other margarine
- ¼ cup of grape seed, vegetable or olive oil (if you want that flavor in your mac and cheese)
- 1 tsp. truffle oil (Optional, in lieu of rosemary)
- 1 Sprig of rosemary (Optional, in lieu of truffle oil)
- Pasta: The above cream recipe is enough to coat up to 10 oz. pasta. I recommend using shells or rotini because they can really hold on to the sauce, of course, macaroni works too.
- 1 bag of Daiya
- In a food processor, process the cashews (and rosemary leaves if that’s what you’re using) until they become fine granules. Be careful you don’t keep it on for too long or else it turns to butter.
- Combine ground cashews with the yeast, salt, onion and garlic. Pulse a couple of times to mix the ingredients.
- In a saucepan, mix 1 cup of soy milk with the Earth Balance, truffle (if using) and whatever oil you decided to go with heat on high
- In a sealable jar put ¾ cups of soy milk and add the corn starch on top, seal the jar and shake like hell for 20 seconds. I found this is the best way to avoid corn starch clumps.
- Add the cornstarch/soy milk mixture to the saucepan with the other heating ingredients, stir often
- When it starts to bubble and simmer, reduce to low heat. It might continue to over boil in which case just remove it from heat altogether for a while before putting it back over low heat.
- With the processor on, slowly pour the wet mixture in with the dry-cashew-mixture and allow it to completely blend together
- Cook the pasta as directed on the instructions, drain and set in a large casserole dish
- Pour the “cheese” mixture onto the noodles and stir until completely covered
- Add the Daiya on top of the mac and cheese and set it under the broiler for 2 minutes or until the Daiya has melted
- Remove the mac and cheese from the oven
- Using a blowtorch (no I’m not kidding) quickly scorch the Daiya until it browns. Do this quickly and carefully, the Daiya will brown immediately on impact with the flame.