There won't be a Wordless Wednesday post today.
February 24th is a special day for me. One filled with sorrow, memories and unfortunate regrets. Because on this day last year, my friend T - my very first friend growing up in Canada - passed away.
Even when I was growing up in the 90s, racism was prevalent in school. I went to a Catholic school with an extremely low Asian population my first few years after moving from South Korea. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't understand much English but I didn't need to comprehend words. The eyes, the looks, the actions...kids made you know you were different and that different wasn't always a good thing. I still remember my cousin (sorry about the shoutout!) Justin coming back from school...crying that he didn't want to go back because of the bullies that made fun of him - it was heartbreaking. The feeling of standing by yourself at recess and getting made fun of for being different in a foreign language as a little kid... words can't do it justice.
Then there was T. This skinny, buzz cut kid that would always come up to me - smiling. He would always come sit next to me in class, include me in group games (even though I had no freaking idea what was going on) and talk to me. He was the first person to put aside our racial differences and welcome me into his life and his family. My first and most influential friend.
I had lost contact with T over the years and living in different countries didn't help much either. So when I got a random phone call from his mother this day last year about how he passed away in a car accident - it was devastating. We hadn't talked in forever and just like that...he disappeared from my life. I never got a chance to say good bye or see him as a college student like me. It all seemed like a cruel joke initially but...it wasn't. Through a simple phone call - he was gone. His death really made me realize how often we don't tell people that we care about them...and love them. So to those close and special to me - thank you for being in my life and making every day memorable.
The first time I had mac and cheese was at T's house (which was not from a blue box!) and I remember him arguing with his mother all the time about how much he hated cauliflower. The only way he would eat it was with melted cheddar cheese and I actually think that was the first time I had cauliflower also. I think he ended up liking cauliflower eventually and if he was with us today - I think he would like this dish too.
RIP TS, this one's for you. You were an amazing friend and one hell of a person.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound dry elbow pasta
- 1/4 cup of unsalted butter plus more to top
- 1/4 cup of AP flour
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of dry mustard
- 3 cups of grated cheddar cheese (I used a blend of regular cheddar, extra sharp and aged Canadian)
- 1 cup of parmesan cheese plus more to top
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of grated cauliflower
- 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the dried elbow pasta and stir. Cook just under (about a minute) al dente. Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
2) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3) Melt 1/4 cup of butter in an 11" cast iron skillet and whisk in the flour. Cook out the flour for a couple of minutes then add in the milk and cream. Whisk constantly to make sure it's smooth without lumps.
4) Whisk in the dry mustard and season with salt and pepper.
5) In batches, melt in the cheddar/parmesan cheese. Mix a little in at a time and whisk to prevent lumps. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6) Add the cooked, drained pasta to the cheese mixture and stir until the pasta's evenly coated.
7) Mix together the breadcrumbs, cauliflower and thyme in a bowl until evenly mixed. Spread evenly on top of the pasta. Dot the top of the breadcrumb with more butter and place in the oven.
8) Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbling. I usually place it on top of a baking sheet so cleaning up isn't such a hassle. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.TS 1988 - 2009