Cast Iron Mac & Cheese + VeganMacShowCase Coming

Here’s a recent ah-ha I’d like to get off my chest: I think I’m over canned fruit filling in my desserts. I had a pastry from a bakery this morning that just made me uncomfortable. It’s Oregon. It’s early September. It wasn’t a miniature pie. It doesn’t seem OK. Look, don’t hold me to this when the zombie apocalypse comes, but that’s not a promise either. I could go either way.

In other recent eats, the very first actual dish I cooked upon my return from my month in New York that did not involve my precious, instant mushroom ramen was some good ol’ fashioned cast iron mac & cheese. It should come as no surprise that it was the one-and-only Isa Chandra who led me to see the cast iron light, and it’s now my go-to cooking pan and my favorite vehicle for baked mac & cheese. The well-loved cast iron produces such great crunchin’, which is clearly my favorite part of most mac & cheese experiences. Truth be told, my partner is way more into stove top mac and loving this Earth Balance boxed swing, and I’m certainly appreciative, but I’d nearly always rather make things myself and bake it. It really takes me back to my early obsession with the legendary New Farm Mac & Cheese, because swoon.

Fun fact, this wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself adapting this recipe for the “Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the Entire World…Seriously“, posted over 8 years ago on dear VegWeb. The first time was for a Bang Bang-inspired Smokey Mac a few years ago, à la Seattle’s popular Belltown cafe (where one can grab Stumptown brew, Mighty-O Donuts, burritos and vegan mac for breakfast). And fun fact #2: I once submitted a recipe for a Tofutti single & tempeh bacon grilled cheese on that site. Oh, how far both Vegweb and I have both tiptoed into contemporary veganism?

Nooch & News

Noochy, baked mac…the call of the old school vegan is a strong one. So much so that I’ll use this time to mention a dream of mine coming true (which is a big reason I got into my career of event planning in the first place, let’s be real): Portland’s Vegan Iron Chef is revamping & gearing up for an entirely vegan Mac & Cheese Showcase on November 16! More to come, and please feel free to stay tuned to the website and Twitter for entry, tickets & volunteer info (or whatevs, just email us veganironchef@gmail.com!). Bottom line, I often have mac & cheese on the brain, especially when I’m arriving home to a quiet apartment and in need of some serious comfort cuisine.

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Cast Iron Mac & Cheese

This recipe has everything I want in my vegan mac: lots of nooch, salt, miso, soy and smoked paprika. It’s adapted from the “Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the Entire World…Seriously“via VegWeb and makes about 6 fine servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pasta, such as mini shells or elbows, cooked, drained and tossed with a tiny bit of olive oil or Earth Balance
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth > preferably no salt added
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature Earth Balance
  • 1 block of silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 clove garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder {You can totally saute the garlic in the Earth Balance first for a more subtle flavor if you’re a garlic nervous Nellie}
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked OR hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce OR tamari > use both GF tamari and noodles for you-know-what
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon miso > I used red but I’m also quite fond of white
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened nondairy milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • pinch cayenne or hot sauce, to taste
  • pinch white pepper
  • Optional: seasoned breadcrumbs, breadcrumbs, crumbled tempeh or coconut bacon, and smoked paprika for topping.
  • Pretty much necessary for the full experience: hot sauce for eating.

Here’s what ya do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F and lightly grease a medium or large cast iron pan. Mine is about 10 inches round.
  2. Puree everything but the pasta in a blender on high until smooth. I know, I know, I’m a lucky fool with a Vita-Mix. Perhaps you are too, perhaps not. Keep blending.
  3. Taste the sauce! Adjust as you see fit. Heads up: the salt & tang will mellow a bit baking.
  4. Add half the pasta to the cast iron pan. Spoon in half the sauce and cover the pasta. Add the rest of the pasta. Now, add the rest of the sauce, and top with anything you like, if desired, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until crisped on top. Most of the sauce will soak in the pasta, appropriately.
  5. Optional: broil for an additional 5 minutes, if desired.
  6. Let cool a bit, and if you wait long enough, you can totally cut this into slices, or something resembling slices. Enjoy with hot sauce, if you like.

And there goes a week of enjoying mac & cheese along with colorful, giant salads.

Oregon produce, I missed you, dudes.

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16 thoughts on “Cast Iron Mac & Cheese + VeganMacShowCase Coming

  1. I was going to do my mac+cheese in cast iron over the fire pit for my camping theme, but I couldn’t wield the big dutch oven filled to the brim with water in and out of the pit with the knobby stick I used as a handle without sloshing it everywhere. So, I figured better safe that sorry- especially when off in the woods and out of cell phone reception- and fired up the Coleman stove instead. I still might try it in cast iron one day…. Maybe just in smaller quantity.

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