Thursday, March 17, 2011

Isa's Mac & Shews

I can tell you the exact moment my life changed. It was when I read Isa Moskowitz's blog post about Mac & Shews. I will never be the same again. Well, dinner won't be at least.

So Isa had this crazy awesome idea to add sauerkraut to a creamy cashew sauce to get that tang that vegan cheeses substitutes are missing. I just happened to have a jar of Bubbies sauerkraut in the fridge leftover from veggie dog meals from the summer. I've never really used it for anything else so I figured that if nothing else, this would be a great way to get rid of that jar. Also, I totally love making things from cashews.

Here's a funny thing. Even in my vegetarian days, I never really cared much for macaroni and cheese. (Or as they call it up here in Canada - Kraft Dinner.) For some reason, though, since becoming vegan, I love experimenting with different mac and cheese recipes. With the exception of Veganomicon's Mac Daddy, I've rarely made a recipe for this twice. It's always been sort of the same noochy flavor. Don't get me wrong, I love me some nutritional yeast, but I don't really care one way or the other for a nooch sauce of that type. I'll eat it, but I don't sit around thinking about it or anything. This stuff, though... oh, man.

Isa's photos are prettier than mine, so maybe go look at her post, too.

I will most definitely make Mac & Shews again. And again. And again. We steamed some broccoli with ours and added some hot sauce and it was amazing. James and I each had thirds. Thirds! I don't think either of us have ever done that. And even Mr. I-Refuse-To-Eat-Leftovers was looking forward to eating leftovers of this stuff. The sauce is creamy and tangy and full of wonderful flavors.

I've been told that the Bubbies sauerkraut has a slightly different flavor than other brands. I forget why. Maybe they don't add as much vinegar or something. So keep that in mind. However, I don't think you'd ever know sauerkraut was the secret ingredient in this if someone didn't tell you. James likes to try and guess what I put in things and he was totally stumped on this one. I was so gleeful when I told him it was cashews and sauerkraut. Seriously, try this stuff even if you never liked mac and cheese before.

One thing, though - this makes a huge pan worth. I think next time I'll half the recipe since it's just the two of us at home. If you're cooking for one or two,  you might want to do that as well.

Once again proving my copy/paste powers are strong, here's the recipe direct from Isa's blog to mine to you.

Mac & Shews

Recipe notes:
~You really need to blend the beejeezus out of the cashews and sauerkraut. Although it won’t be completely creamy until after it’s cooked, it should still be relatively smooth, with absolutely no chunks, when it comes out of the food processor. I think a Vitamix type thing would work here, too, but I don’t have one myself.

~Make sure that the roux is cooked and toasty before streaming in the veggie broth. It really makes a difference in the final flavor, so get your roux a really beautiful gravy color.

~You can use any smallish pasta. I love to use chiocciole because it can hold plenty of sauce, and I just find the shape pleasing. Small shells or traditional macaroni are both great choices, too.

~To soak cashews, just place them in a bowl and submerge with water. Soak for at least an hour, preferably two, or up to overnight.

~And lastly, the type of veggie broth you use makes a huge difference. If I use my own homemade broth, I make sure it’s super assertive. If you use the type of broth that comes from a powder or concentrate, that is totally cool, just make it a bit stronger than you usually do.

1 lb small pasta like shells, macaroni or chiocciole

1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked (see recipe note)
4 cups broth, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups sauerkraut

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon tumeric
Several dashes fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

First boil salted water for the pasta. Cook pasta and drain. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the recipe.

Place the soaked cashews and the vegetable broth in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor with a spatula occasionally to make sure you get everything. This could take 5 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic and a pinch of salt in a tablespoon of the oil, until onions are softened.

Drain the sauerkraut in a sieve, pushing it into the sieve to remove as much moisture as possible. Add to the pan just to heat through, a minute or two.

Transfer sauerkraut mixture to the food processor with the cashew mixture. Once again, puree until relatively smooth. There will be some texture, just make sure it’s not chunky.

Wipe out the pan that you sauteed the onions in and preheat it over medium heat once again. Add 3 tablespoons of oil, along with the flour. It should become a gooey clump. You’re now making a roux! Add a little bit more olive oil if necessary. Toast the roux for about 15 minutes, until it smells toasty and turns a medium brown. Stir practically the whole time so that it cooks evenly.

Now stream in remaining 2 cups of broth, whisking constantly so that it doesn’t clump. Whisk until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes.

Stream in the cashew sauerkraut mixture, and whisk until well incorporated. Add the tumeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast if using, salt and fresh lemon juice. Heat through and stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken.

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 11 x 13 casserole with olive oil.

Add the cooked pasta back to the pasta pot and pour in the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Mix to coat, then transfer to the casserole dish. Cover casserole with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot!


  1. I saw that recipe on her blog and even though I'm a huge sauerkraut fan it just sounded off. Glad to hear you sing its praises--I'll give it a try!

  2. You most definitely should try it! I don't think you can taste that it's sauerkraut giving the sauce the tangy flavor. It's so delicious, you won't be sorry.

  3. I recently saw a German TV commercial for a Mac and Cheese box mix. That was so weird. Mac and cheese is not very well known over here. Anyway, I would prefer Isa's Mac and Shews over anything! The sauerkraut idea totally makes sense to me.

  4. I've been wanting to make this since I saw it on Isa's blog, I really need to get around to buying a jar of sauerkraut.

  5. Do it! You won't be sorry. Plus, this recipe used up my entire jar of sauerkraut. That's good if you're worried about having a half empty jar of sauerkraut in the fridge for ages.