Easy Cauliflower Risotto with Crisp Potato Bits

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Whenever I make risotto I think of my friend Giulia, who grew up in Bologna, in northern Italy.  I decided to make risotto for the first time a few months ago, and when I told her about it she immediately explained to me, “that’s great, risotto is easy and delicious.  But don’t make it like French people – they don’t know how to make any Italian food.  Remember to add the broth one ladle at a time; les français ne suivent pas cette règle, et le risotto souffre. Sometimes, they will even add water to the risotto instead of broth!” (I wish I could somehow portray to you the look of horror on her face as she explained this to me).  According to Giulia, coffee in France is also horrific, and is something that should be enjoyed only in Italy.
I can’t say for sure that risotto in France is bad.   I have never eaten risotto at a restaurant here so I have no opinion on the matter.  Either way, I took her advice and added broth to my risotto au fur et à mesure, a little at a time, and the result was lovely.  Risotto made correctly becomes almost creamy and silken, while still maintaining a certain firmness thanks to the arborio rice. I thought about adding chopped and fried shallots as a garnish, but I decided ultimately on using a fingerling potato, since it provides a little more substance.  You, dear reader, can add whatever you would like to top the risotto!
Truthfully, I also decided to make this because I have a giant box of arborio rice that has been resting in my kitchen for about 5 months now, and I’m just starting to make a dent in it.  Since I also had parmesan in my fridge, I figured why not, let’s try out this risotto with some seasonal cauliflower.  So, here is the final product of my creation, which I devoured immediately after taking these photos, and although I don’t say it often, I was pretty impressed with myself.  If you try this, I guarantee you will have good results, it is pretty difficult to botch this one up.  The recipe is relatively quick (maybe 35 minutes total, plus some chopping) and all the fun takes place in two pans (one for the broth, one for the risotto).  You have to watch the risotto carefully since you’ll be adding broth over time, but it is kind of fun to see how the rice changes and eventually reaches the perfect level of softness.

This recipe calls for 1/2 of a head of cauliflower; the other 1/2 you can store in the fridge for up to 1 or 2 weeks.  You can use it to make cauliflower in a spicy peanut sauce, or try simmering it in some milk until tender, then pureeing it for a nice winter white soup. 

Cauliflower Risotto with Crisp Potato Bits - Serves 1
For the risotto:
1 cup cauliflower florets (from 1/2 head of a small cauliflower)
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 small onion, chopped
3/4-cup arborio rice
1/4-cup dry white wine
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
.
for the potato bits:
1 small fingerling potato, cut into little dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
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1. Cut the cauliflower head in half, keep one half and store the remainder in the fridge for another use.  Remove the center stalk and chop finely; roughly chop the florets, keep separate.
2.  Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
3.  Heat the stock in a saucepan, bring to a boil then to a simmer, and add the florets.
4.  In another saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onion, and celery stalk, and cook gently until softened, about 10 minutes.
5.  Meanwhile, place potatoes on a lined baking sheet and toss with remaining ingredients.  Bake until golden and crispy, about 15 minutes.
6.  Once the vegetables are softened, turn up the heat, add the rice, and cook until slightly translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine, stir, and cook 2-3 minutes more. 
7.  Now the fun part: start adding the broth, one ladle at a time, and simmer until the rice is soft on the outside with a slight bite on the inside, about 20 minutes. The florets should be soft at this point so you can add them with the broth and crush them into the rice with a wooden spoon
8.  Once rice is cooked, stir in the parsley.  Remove from heat. and stir in the parmesan.  Garnish with potato bits.