I made this twice in a week, which is about the highest accolade I can offer a recipe. I ate a plate of it from the pan; I ate several lukewarm bites of it before packing it in the fridge; I ate it cold after a few too many drinks. Then I made it again.
The original recipe is from the same issue of Gourmet that I was riffing on last time. The picture of it is great–cauliflower risotto is pretty hard to photograph in a compelling way–and it features the wooden handle of a fork jumping out of the foreground at you (see?). I need Keats… “see here it is— / I hold it towards you.”
I changed the recipe a bit by roasting only half the cauliflower, in the oven rather than the stovetop, and boiling the other half. I like how the well-cooked cauliflower falls apart in the risotto, very tender and well integrated. The other half of the cauliflower, roasted until caramelized, is gently stirred in at the last minute with some brie and parsley (my herb, not theirs). But this would be great without the cheese, for our dairy-free friends. I’d argue that the roasted almonds are the really significant garnish.
Also, I added some onion at the beginning. I’m pretty sure it’s not cool to make risotto without some onion.
Cauliflower Risotto with Toasted Almonds
adapted from Gourmet
4 C vegetable stock
2 C water
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 T olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 t kosher salt
1/3 C dry white wine
1 1/2 C arborio rice
4 oz. Brie, rind removed, at room temperature (remove the rind when the cheese is cold)
1/4 C chopped parsley
1/3 C sliced almonds, toasted in a frypan over med-low heat (they’re ready when you see a little color and can smell the nuttiness)
Bring the stock and water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add half the cauliflower florets. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the cauliflower for 10 minutes, or until it’s quite tender. Scoop it out of the stock, cover the saucepan, and set the cauliflower aside. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. Toss the other half of the cauliflower with some olive oil (spray can olive oil to the rescue) and dump in a small roasting pan. Roast until tender and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the salt and saute for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the rice and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir for a minute, then add the wine. Stir some more, until the wine has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 C of hot broth from your other saucepan, as well as your boiled cauliflower florets. Stir occasionally and simmer until the broth has been absorbed. Repeat this process, adding broth and stirring, until the rice is just tender (after 15 minutes I start tasting it pretty frequently). Gourmet says this will take 18-22 minutes but the key is to start paying close attention at the 15 minute mark and turn off the heat as soon as the rice is as chewy as you like it.
Stir in the roasted cauliflower, Brie, and parsley. Taste the risotto for salt. At this point it should be pretty loose–when you plate it the risotto should spread out. So if it’s become too stiff with these additions, add more hot broth 1/4 C at a time. Serve topped with toasted almonds.