Side-by-Side: Cauliflower and Mashed Potatoes

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I’m always intrigued by the dietary substitutions suggested for diabetics. But I got to admit my first reaction is generally something along the lines of: Really? I don’t think so…

We’ve all heard that cauliflower can be a credible substitute for mashed potatoes. Really? Well, let’s see…

My last attempt at using cauliflower as a substitute had mixed results. But really, cauliflower in place of mac and cheese? At least this time the vegetable and the starch started out the same color. And if you add enough butter or cheese to something that’s all you’ll taste.

Which made me realize that the recipe could really skew the results. What if I chose a really rich “mock” recipe and a really basic mash recipe?

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So I chose two very basic recipes from the Meals Matter website.

The Garlic Mash Potatoes recipe calls for potatoes and garlic to be boiled together until tender, water drained and then mash with sour cream, broth, milk and butter. Salt and pepper to taste. While I did use low fat sour cream and milk as called for in the recipe, I substituted vegetable broth for chicken broth (to keep the dish vegetarian) and used regular butter instead of reduced calorie butter. I also used minced garlic instead of whole garlic cloves. The result was your basic mashed potatoes. They were a little bland for my taste and could have used more garlic and butter. If I were to make this again I would either use whole garlic cloves in the boil or add more minced garlic when I mashed the potatoes.

The “Mock” Garlic Mashed Potatoes recipe calls for boiling a cut up cauliflower until tender, drain the water, then blend in cream cheese, grated Parmesan, garlic, salt or bullion powder, pepper and butter. I did use salt instead of bullion powder and didn’t bother with the chive garnish. The result looked amazingly like traditional mashed potatoes. But it still tasted like cauliflower. “Acrid” is how Dave describes it. He also suggests making this with cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan. The creaminess of the cheddar would offset some of the acrid taste of the cauliflower better than the dry Parmesan.

The texture was also off. I should have blended the cauliflower more to make it smoother. But I hadn’t made this recipe before and was afraid that the mixture would liquefy. Cauliflower soup clearly wouldn’t be a credible substitute for mashed potatoes.

Side-by-side both recipes were OK; they landed on the midpoint of the yumminess scale with me and my family. Either would be more yummy with a few adjustments in ingredients.

But the flavor of potatoes and cauliflower are different enough that no one will mistake one for the other. When serving mashed cauliflower I’d keep the word “mock” in the dish’s name because no one’s going to be convinced they’re getting mashed potatoes.

A note on the cost of cauliflower: The 2-lbs. head of cauliflower used for this recipe cost US$7 while 2 lbs. of white potatoes cost US$2. This is yet another example of healthier food costing substantially more than the simple starch.