If you look up recipes around the paleo/primal sphere, you will absolutely run into people swearing up and down that mashed cauliflower is an awesome substitute for mashed potatoes.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I had TERRIBLE luck trying to replicate their seemingly effortless results. Every time I made them, they tasted alright (nothing to write home about) but they were all watery and runny and didn’t have that fluffy yummy texture that I’d been missing from mashed potatoes.
So, I tinkered. Then I tested. Then I tinkered again. I can now safely say that I have figured out how to make mashed faux-tatoes that are fluffy and yummy and have as close of a texture to real mashed potatoes as possible.
First off, let me say that I am NOT a food blogger. These last couple recipes I’ve added have shown me exactly how much NOT a food blogger I am. Seriously, I have no idea how these bloggers are doing any actual cooking while taking pictures that look like magazine layouts! So, the pictures suck and I highly doubt that any of my “original” recipes are ever going to have beautiful, perfectly styled photos to accompany the post. What I CAN say is that the scientific approach to recipe testing to make it taste as awesome as humanly possible while still being very easy to accomplish is TOTALLY my bag, baby.
That being said, let’s list out the problems I’ve had with the various cauli-mashes I’ve tried:
Fixing #1 was simple: use the water naturally occurring in the cauliflower to steam it in the microwave rather than any cooking method that requires adding a cooking liquid (ie. boiling or water steaming). For me, this meant nuking the cauliflower in a covered dish without adding any liquid to the process. Also, I removed as much liquid as possible from the blending process to keep the mash from getting too runny.
The second problem was a little more difficult. Cauliflower, at its very essence, just doesn’t taste like a potato. It has that gassy brassica smell and flavor that you have to find some way to remove. I managed this by adding sour cream, which added some tangy-ness to the dish and (I think) helped cover up some of that heavy brassica smell. I also added a touch of garlic powder to add some flavor complexity. The result is that you end up with a mash that doesn’t quite taste as garlicky as garlic mashed potatoes, but that DOES taste a little bit more complex than plain mashed potatoes.
The third problem was more or less solved with the first: microwaving the cauliflower. Start to finish–from trimming and chopping the cauliflower, to serving it up for dinner–takes about 10 minutes.
The last problem? Well, there are going to be dishes: the microwave bowl and the food processor. However, I’m usually able to double up the microwave bowl as the leftover dish, which just leaves me to deal with the food processor (which, admittedly, can be kind of a pain to wash). Honestly, fully solving three out of four of the problems is enough of a win for me that I just suck it up during dishwashing time.
As for the method of mashing, I’ve tried three different ways: an immersion blender, a hand masher and a food processor. Hands down the food processor wins. The hand masher just couldn’t get a smooth enough consistency (and, while lumpy mashed potatoes are ok sometimes, lumpy mashed cauliflower just highlights the fact that you’re NOT eating real mashed potatoes). The recipe doesn’t have enough liquid in it to make using the immersion blender a viable option, either. It came out ok, but it was VERY difficult to get it to blend and it still came out kind of gritty. Aside from that, hand mashing and immersion blending will still come out tasting good, but neither come close to the results from a food processor. I imagine a Vita-mix or other MEGA blender would also do the trick, but I haven’t tested (since I don’t have one).
Note #1: This is a heavy garlic household, so while adding 1 tsp of garlic powder to me doesn’t really end up registering as a “garlic” flavor, it may be very different for you if you are more sensitive to garlic. For me, this is just enough to eliminate the cauliflower smell while not making it a true garlic mash. If you want to eliminate it, that’s fine as well, but I’ve found that not adding it leads to a less complex and more cauliflower flavor. However, if you want to make it a garlic mash, I’d suggest adding a few cloves of garlic into the bowl when you steam the cauliflower and mash it together with the rest of the ingredients in the food processor. I would still add the garlic powder to the mix, but probably up it to 2 tsp instead of just the one (as I said, we’re a heavy garlic household).
Note #2: Only add the cream if you are using an immersion blender OR the faux-tatoes are truly too thick for your tastes. Process it with a few pulses to thin it out a little and see if that helps. Adding much more than 1 tbsp will start to water log the cauliflower, so if you still want to thin it out after that, add another tablespoon of sour cream or butter. I have only had to add the cream once and that was during the immersion blender experiment, so it really shouldn’t be necessary.
Note #3: Some people REALLY don’t like to use microwave ovens. I get that, but don’t subscribe to the believe that they’re evil. So, if you truly don’t want to microwave, I would suggest using a conventional oven instead. Same thing: oven safe dish covered (in foil, I imagine) and then roast until tender. I would guess 20 minutes, but I can’t be sure since I haven’t tested this method. I wouldn’t add water to the dish, but I would probably add one of the two tablespoons of butter to keep the cauliflower from getting too dried out.
As for the taste, the best compliment I can say is that I had to reassure The Chief more than once that I really, truly didn’t add any potato whatsoever to the dish.