At least once a month, we like to have risotto for our Sunday dinner. Many people think it’s difficult, but it’s really not. It just takes a bit of patience while the rice is cooking, since you have to add broth, stir, stir, add broth, stir, stir, and so on. But, when it comes out perfectly, we can’t imagine anything better. Now, you should know that, if you’ve had risotto at a restaurant and didn’t like it, there’s a really good chance that it was made poorly.
From our own experience, we’ve found that about 90% of the risotto you get at a restaurant is just plain bad. While that may seem high, it’s just not a dish that fits well with the restaurant model of serving people rapidly. If you serve rapidly, you can’t make risotto to order, meaning that it has to sit around for awhile, which, in turn, means that the risotto acquires a glommy texture, and not a smooth, creamy texture.
We got the idea for this roasted cauliflower risotto from Mollie Katzen’s book, The Heart of the Plate, although I’m sure we merged her recipe with our standard risotto recipe.
Make 4 servings.
You must use a rice that’s appropriate for risotto, and the most common is arborio rice. Ordinary rice will not release the starches necessary to make the creamy broth. Remember, Parmesan cheese does not come in a green can. It is a cheese. If you don’t have heavy cream, all is not lost; you can use a tablespoon or two of butter right at the end of cooking, instead. Unsalted butter, of course.
Procedure in detail:
There are two main parts: roasting the cauliflower and making the risotto. Ideally, you’ll work on both at the same time, but we’ll start with roasting the cauliflower, then making the risotto.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Break cauliflower. Use your hands and break the cauliflower into pieces about 3/4 of an inch in size. Cutting the cauliflower results in too many fine pieces of cauliflower; we want small florets. Place the florets on the prepared baking pan.
Drizzle and season. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the florets, then season with salt and pepper.
Roast. Place the florets in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pieces are starting to turn golden. Stir and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, until all the florets are golden.
Add Fontina. Push the cauliflower florets close together and top with the grated Fontina. Slide back into the oven and roast about 15 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and browned in spots. Remove from oven and set aside.
That’s it for the roasted cauliflower. We tasted it right here and thought that it would make a very good side dish, just as is. That didn’t stop us from making the risotto, which is next.
Heat broth. Place the broth in a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You need the broth hot to cook the arborio rice properly.
Cook onions. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and heat the olive oil. When the butter is foamy, add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add rice. Pour in the arborio rice and cook, stirring to coat the grains with butter and oil, for 1 minute. Do not cook for too long or you’ll “seal” the rice grains and they won’t release that all important starch.
Add wine. Stir the wine into the rice and cook until it’s almost all absorbed.
Add broth, stir, repeat. Here’s the secret to risotto: add about 1/4 cup of hot broth at a time, stir the rice until it’s absorbed, then add more hot broth. Keep up this adding and stirring until the rice is al dente, or soft on the outside, with just the slightest bit of chewiness inside.
Finish. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and fold in the roasted cauliflower. Let stand covered for 5 minutes to melt the cheeses. Add the heavy cream, stir, then adjust salt and pepper.
Serve immediately. Often, very shallow bowls or soup plates are used for serving risotto, which is what we did here. Don’t forget to top with a garnish of Parmesan cheese, and perhaps a bit of chives or flat-leaved parsley.
Wow! We like this! Of course, we like just about every kind of risotto that we’ve had, but some are better than others, and this is one of the best yet. The cauliflower gets a nutty flavor from the roasting, and the Fontina cheese seems to add to the creaminess of the risotto. As we said above, we think that making just the roasted cauliflower and serving that as a side would be a great, but then to pair it with creamy risotto, well. We can tell you that there was not a single grain of arborio rice leftover in our house. Fives.