Review of Chef'd Chicken Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
I'm a big fan of Mac & Cheese. But as a middle age man, suffering the daily struggle to button my pants, I always feel a bit guilty when I start shoveling forkful after forkful into my mouth.
Fortunately, Chef'd to the rescue.
Instead of the carb loaded pasta, Chef'd uses cauliflower florets to bulk up the dish, while keeping it far more healthy. The cauliflower is quickly blanched until just tender and then folded into the cheese sauce.
To add some protein, we add a couple pan seared chicken breasts to the mix. Both lean, and low calorie, the chicken helps to make sure the meal doesn't leave you still hungry. Of course, it's not like there isn't any rich, decadent part of this dish.
The cheese sauce carries a good amount of calories, as it's rich with cream and cheese. And really is the main flavor component. To finish the dish, there are some roasted red pepper that you bake on top of the mac & cheese. The peppers provide a great flavor contrast and help cut through the rich cheese sauce. It's a solid mac & cheese sauce.
Chef'd says that the dish takes about 45 minutes to make and it did in fact take me about that much time. Of course, I was filming while cooking, and probably could get it done a little bit quicker.
I found all the directions on the recipe card were clear. Although the description suggests serving the cauliflower mac 'n cheese as a side to the pan seared chicken...while the picture has the chicken sliced and laid on top of the chicken. Both work. Serve it however you'd like.
All the ingredients from Chef'd were fresh and good quality. Everything for this recipe was packaged together to make it easy to sort and prep. I thought the portion size was plenty for two people, and most will have some leftovers.
The dish has all the richness you'd be looking for in a mac 'n cheese. And while absent the pasta, it's not a perfect substitute, it is pretty close. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
The Akins friendly, Chicken Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, has no pasta (honestly, if you wanted to add some, it would probably be pretty tasty), but it does have plenty of flavor & texture.
All the ingredients that came with the dish where fresh & high quality. And the only things that you'll need to have on hand are salt, pepper, and oil. Included in the Chef'd box was:
- Jack & cheddar cheese
- Cream cheese
- Whipping cream
- Roasted red pepper
- Chicken breasts
- Cauliflower florets
- Ground mustard
Making the dish
The recipe card that Chef'd included with the box has a set of directions that I found clear and easy to follow. It took me about 45 minutes to make, and for the most part I followed the directions - although i deviated a bit here and there, as noted below.
Chef'd breaks the cooking down into 6 Steps:
- "Lets Begin" - where you chop some garlic, get the oven pre-heated, grease a sheet pan and start a pot of water boiling
- "The Cauliflower" - where you chop the cauliflower and then blanch it in the boiling water until just barely tender
- "Making the Cheese Sauce" - combines the cream, cheese, tabasco and mustard
- "Let's Bake" - has you mixing the cauliflower and the cheese sauce
- "Sear the Chicken" - as the name suggests, here you're cooking the chicken
While the recipe card as you baking the cauliflower and cheese sauce on a sheet pan, all of mine where a bit too big. Using it would have made a thin, single layer which I think would have tired out or even burnt in the oven.
So I ended up using an oven proof frying pan, where the cauliflower mixture could sit about 2 inches deep. And then instead of serving it on the side of the whole chicken breasts, I sliced the chicken and served it on top of the mac 'n cheese.
When I do it again, instead of baking the full time, I think I'd also put the broiler on for the last 7-8 minutes, and have the mac 'n cheese get a bit toasted/caramelized on the top. That would bring added flavor and texture to the dish.
While I knew it was a "mac 'n cheese" going in, i was still surprised at how rich the finished dish was. So much so, that I was satisfied with a relatively small portion, and we had some leftovers in my house.
Obviously, the primary flavor for the dish comes from the cheese sauce - a mix of the cream, cheese, tabasco, and ground mustard. A pretty standard combination for a cheese sauce - and it's pretty standard, because it's pretty damn good.
You need to be mindful to season the sauce properly with salt & pepper. The mustard and tabasco give the sauce a bit of a tang (not really much heat), and the cheese and cream ensure a rich, thick sauce.
I'm a fan of cauliflower, but even someone who's not, would probably like it when covered in this sauce. The recipe calls for a simple blanch on the cauliflower, which keeps the flavor mild and pretty standard. If you wanted to change it up, you could brown the florets over high heat in a pan or under a broiler. That would add some caramelized flavor to the dish and a bit more complexity.
Like the cauliflower, the chicken is simple prepared, seared off in a pan. Make sure you to use high heat to get a brown crust on the outside of the chicken. The flavor of the chicken is pretty mild, but again, eaten with the sauce, you'll love it.
Aside from the sauce itself, the big flavor punch comes from the roasted red peppers, which you sprinkle on top of mac & cheese. The peppers have a fresh, light, punchy taste that nicely contrasts the rich cream sauce. After a few bites of the creamy cauliflower, i was seeking out pieces of roasted pepper to "refresh" my pallet. If anything I would have appreciated even more red pepper for the dish.
Chef'd Chicken Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Quite obviously, this is not a traditional mac 'n cheese. But, if you need/want to avoid the carbs in pasta...or the calories...this is a very solid imitation.
The cheese sauce is quite tasty and delivers on the rich, hearty feel you're looking for in a mac 'n cheese. The cauliflower & chicken provide plenty of body to the dish.
The directions were simple to follow and the timing was pretty much spot on. I was really happy with this recipe, and I think you will be too.