Let’s say you’ve resolved to eat healthier in the New Year, but find yourself tripped up over and over again by your unconquerable yen for food that’s rich and delicious. And let’s also say that one of your favorite dishes is mashed potatoes.
There are no potatoes in this recipe, but by the time your family and guests have polished off a serving of this side dish, every one of them will be swearing that these are the smoothest, tastiest mashed potatoes they’ve ever eaten — although it’s possible that the more discerning among them will note that there’s something a little bit different about that flavor. That would be because they’re not potatoes. Rather, this dish is a 100 percent cauliflower puree with a tiny tad of butter and some salt thrown in. That’s right — only three ingredients. Four, if you count the water.
And it’s very simple to make. You just cut a head of cauliflower into pieces about 1 1/2 inches thick. Combine the pieces with the salt and butter, then put it all in a large skillet and pour in enough water to nearly cover the contents. Bring the water to a boil, throw on a lid and let it steam for 10 minutes or just until the cauliflower becomes tender.
Now for the hardest part. You’re going to boil and reduce the water in which the veggie was steamed as a way to concentrate its flavor — a step that requires you to wait patiently. Afterward, you can resume charging ahead, pureeing the reduced liquid and the cooked cauliflower in a blender until silky smooth.
That’s it. Not only is this puree tasty, smooth and light, it’s also the perfect vehicle for any sauce … just like mashed potatoes.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Start to finish: 55 minutes (25 minutes hands-on)
1 small head cauliflower (about 2 1/4 pounds), core removed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Chopped chives for garnish
In a large skillet combine the cauliflower with the salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter cut into small chunks. Pour in enough water to reach just below the top of the cauliflower pieces, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the cauliflower with a slotted spoon to a bowl and bring the liquid remaining in the pan back to a boil. Boil the liquid until it is reduced to about 1/3-1/2 of a cup. Working in two batches, transfer half of the cooked cauliflower to a blender and add half of the reduced liquid. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides several times as necessary. Transfer the mixture to the skillet. Repeat the procedure with the remaining cauliflower and liquid and heat the puree in the skillet, stirring, just until hot. Add salt to taste and serve, topping each portion with a tiny slice of the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and a sprinkling of chives.
Note: The puree can be made ahead and heated in a double boiler or the microwave.
Nutrition information per serving: 94 calories; 51 calories from fat; 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 212 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 4 g protein.
Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”