Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cauliflower Alfredo with Chicken and Leeks

Alfredo sauce, cauliflower, leeks, garlic, chicken, butter, olive oil, cheese, salt, and pepper.  That's what went into my dinner tonight.  I've had this head of cauliflower in my fridge for several weeks, and it was starting to look a little peaky.  I knew I'd need to cook it soon or risk losing it. Cauliflower is delicious and versatile.  It would be too sad to be forced to toss such a lovely vegetable.  I started thinking about cauliflower in cheese sauce, which is delicious, but I didn't feel like making a full-on cheese sauce. I'm not sure exactly how I decided, but I was looking up recipes and came across one for Alfredo sauce.  I've never made Alfredo sauce, and it looked surprisingly easy.  I guess I always thought Alfredo was something tricky or difficult, ironically because it seemed so elegantly simple.

     Well, it is simple.  Do a Google search, and you'll see thousands of recipes.  I looked at about a dozen and chose what seemed to be the classic version and made mine based on that.  Basically, you melt some butter in a saucepan, add about a cup of cream, and let simmer for 5 minutes.  It will reduce a bit.  Then stir in 1 to 3 cloves of minced garlic and 1 1/2 to 2 cups finely shredded Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces using a micro-plane grater). I used 3 cloves of garlic and 2 cups of mixed Parmesan and Romano cheese and added a dash or two of pepper.  This sauce is so delicious, wonderfully creamy without being thick or heavy.  It's just a luscious, light, and creamy sauce.

     For the whole dish, here's what I did.  I cleaned and cut the head of cauliflower into largish, bite-sized pieces.  I cleaned the leeks--they were a bit gritty--then halved then length-wise and sliced them.  I melted a little butter along with a little olive oil in a large skillet.  I sauteed the leeks until they were soft then tossed in a couple of cloves of roughly chopped garlic and sauteed for another minute or two.  I then added the cauliflower and stirred to coat it with the leek/garlic/butter mixture.  Once the cauliflower was coated, I poured it in a baking dish and finished cooking the cauliflower by roasting it in a 400 degree oven.  I think it took about 30 minutes in the oven to get the cauliflower to the tender but not mushy point--your mileage may vary.

     While the cauliflower was roasting, I sauteed some more chopped garlic in the same skillet for a few minutes then added some cut up chicken breast.  I decided I needed some protein.  You could make it without chicken easily, and it would be just as delicious.  Once the chicken was almost completely cooked, I pulled the cauliflower out of the oven and added the chicken to the baking pan.  I popped it back in the oven to finish cooking while I made the sauce.  I turned the oven off at this point.  There was enough heat left to finish cooking the chicken and vegetables.

     Once the sauce was ready, I took the cauliflower dish out of the oven and poured the contents into the sauce.  I used a large spoon to gently fold the chicken and vegetables into the sauce.  I then stirred in a little chopped parsley.
Oh yum!  The leeks had caramelized and added savory oniony, caramel goodness to the sauce.  The roasted cauliflower isn't watery the way cauliflower can get when you boil or steam it.  The garlic, cheese, cream mixture brought everything together, and the fresh parsley added a fresh, sharp note to the richness of the dish.  My whole house smells fantastic.

     I ate about a cup of the mixture for dinner, and it was plenty.  I'm guessing, but I think this made about 6 servings.  If you made it without the chicken, you could serve it as a side and it would stretch to even more servings.


  1. Oh, my yes, this sounds like my kind of food. And not difficult at all. However, I wish you were here to cook it for me and get hugs too.

  2. Remind me to make it for you next time I visit. You won't have to remind me to give you hugs.