Baked Cauliflower Risotto

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There is a lovely book written by a food blogger, Yvette van Boven, called “Home-Made Winter.” Photographs are by Oof Verschuren. The book was published in 2012.

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Not surprisingly, they also published “Home-Made Summer” together in 2013, which I also own.

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The whole idea of the summer and winter cookbooks really swept me off my feet, because I am so seasonally oriented. This isn’t just with the case of food. I change everything with the seasons, from my home decor to the lipstick I wear. And I’m not talking holidays. I’m talking seasons. I take them very seriously.

The Winter cookbook is inspired mainly by Yvette’s native land of Ireland; her summer book inspired by her love of adopted France. The recipes run the gamut from breakfast through dessert, plus drinks. There are also some holiday dishes included. The photos are a real delight, especially the ones featuring Yvette herself. She definitely doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Now, you may wonder why I chose this recipe out of Home Made Winter? There are two reasons.

First of all, even though it’s March, spring has not sprung where I live. I’m not running around outside in shorts planting tomato seedlings, and my strawberry plants don’t even look perky. It’s cold.

Secondly, I’ve never baked a risotto, so I decided this was a good time to start!

This recipe is probably not representative of the recipes in Ms. van Boven’s book, but it jumped out at me, not just because the risotto is baked, but because it includes cauliflower and Gruyere.

Baked Risotto with Cauliflower and Gruyere
adapted from Home Made Winter

1 small head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 ounces Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Sauvignon Blanc
2 1/4 cups strong-flavored chicken broth
8 ounces grated Gruyere, or Fontina or even a white cheddar
Bread Crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the cauliflower by removing the core. I usually make about 5 slices into the center of the cauliflower, slicing inward, until it comes out on its own.
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Remove excess leaves, then break up the cauliflower into florets.

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Steam the florets until they’re just tender, about 10 minutes over boiling water. Let cool, then place them on the cutting board and chop them coarsely.
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Heat a 12″ cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them for a few minutes.
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Then stir in the garlic and saute for barely a half of a minute.
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Weigh out the rice. I used arborio, but any risotto rice would work in its place.
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Pour the rice into the onion-garlic mixture.
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Stir well for about one minute. All of the grains of rice should be glistening.
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Then pour in all of the liquid.
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Add the chopped cauliflower.
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Add the grated cheese.
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Bring the liquid to a boil, then carefully place the skillet in the oven. Top with a tight fitting lid, and bake for 25 minutes.

It will look like this when it’s fully baked. Individual oven-proof dishes would have been very pretty for serving purposes, but it would have really been challenging to divide everything equally, when the rice to liquid ratio needs to be correct.

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I actually left the lid on the skillet for another 15 minutes, to insure that the rice was fully cooked. Then I removed the lid from the skillet.

The original recipe called for a large amount of bread crumbs, in my opinion. I just used a couple of tablespoons of my home-made bread crumbs to add some texture. If desired, the breadcrumbs can be mixed with dried herbs, or even fresh parsley, before being sprinkled. I left things plain for the purpose of testing my first baked risotto.
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At this point, the skillet can be placed under the broiler for browning purposes, but I left it as is. Truth be told, I got out my little butane torch for this purpose. It wasn’t working well so I refilled it. I thought I waited long enough, but somehow some butane leaked and the whole thing caught on fire. I screamed and did what any intelligent person would do and threw it on the floor, nearly missing my dog. Fortunately, the flames retarded quickly. It’s good I have a non-flammable floor. But I was more worried about my very inquisitive dog, as well as my one hand that’s now as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Note to self: make sure to ask for a new butane torch for Christmas.

To serve, I sliced a wedge of the baked risotto because I thought it would be pretty, but there just isn’t enough cheese throughout the risotto to keep things stuck together.
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Nonetheless, I served the wedge alongside a fresh tomato salad.
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I must say it was delicious. It helps if you love cauliflower, of course.
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verdict: The top of the baked risotto looks a bit anemic – I think I probably should have taken the time to brown the top. But the looks of it doesn’t reflect the full flavors. However, I’m not really sure what purpose the arborio rice served. I think it could have been any white rice, or even brown rice, given a longer cooking time. But it was fun, and as a side dish it went very well on subsequent days with both steak and chicken. I would call it a rice-cauliflower gratin.

If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that the author doesn’t go into many details, such as pan dimensions, or number of servings. So novice cooks might be a bit challenged. If you want to check out Yvette’s blog first, here it is. She’s adorable, and has published other books than these as well.