In my opinion, cauliflower is an incredibly under-appreciated vegetable. And I think it's because so often it is relegated to being served steamed. I know that it's the healthiest way to prepare most veggies, but it's also my least favorite. Unless you season the beejesus out of them, they usually end up pretty bland. And it's easy to overcook them and they become mushy. Mushy vegetables = no bueno. But roast some veggies and we're telling a different story. You get beautiful caramelization, a good combination of crispy and soft textures, and the best flavor. And roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite side dishes.
So when I saw this recipe for cauliflower risotto, I knew it had potential, but needed a little work. It's an interesting technique: cauliflower is steamed and pureed, and that puree is mixed into the risotto to infuse the entire dish with cauliflower. So you have cauliflower flavor in every bite. In order to amp up the flavor even more, plus add some texture, I roasted some cauliflower and served it on top of the risotto. I also wish I had omitted the celery. I'm not a fan of celery, so I don't know why I added it in the first place, but I ended up picking most of it out of my serving. I don't think it added anything. I used fresh thyme, but I think rosemary would be great as well.
I'm not a fan of pureed cauliflower masquerading as mashed potatoes - cauliflower is cauliflower, and potatoes are potatoes. But the cauliflower puree in this risotto definitely adds a lot to the dish. It gives the risotto a wonderful creaminess, but without having to add extra butter, cream, or gobs of cheese. For such a decadent and elegant dish, this is actually pretty healthy. And for the first time in 9 months, I got to enjoy a glass of wine while I stirred my risotto - one of my favorite rituals. :-)
adapted from Everyday Food, October 2011
- 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
- olive oil
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Steam the remaining cauliflower, then puree in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, and thin with about 2 tablespoons of chicken or vegetable broth. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and cover to keep warm.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, reduce heat to medium, and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the rice, and stir constantly until they are opaque around the edges, 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated, about 1-2 minutes.
Pour 1 1/2 cups of the broth to the skillet. Cook, stirring often, until most of the broth has been absorbed. Repeat with the remaining broth, adding about 1/2 cup at a time and stirring constantly, until the rice is tender but still al dente and the sauce is creamy, about 20 minutes.
Add the cauliflower puree, thyme, and Parmesan and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among plates, top with roasted cauliflower, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve immediately.