Monday, July 25, 2011

Cauliflower risotto

I love risotto. 
I love the creaminess of it. 
I love that slightly firm bite to it. 
I love the way it marries with other flavors. As I've always said; "it plays well with others". With the low-carb thing I've got going lately I've had to give up my beloved risotto. Maybe, someday, in the future I can enjoy it again but it will have to be on a very limited basis. 

I racked my brain on how I could get that same sort of mouth feel, that same sort of complex textural thing that I love so much about risotto but without all the carbs. What vegetable would lend itself? The obvious was cauliflower. It had the same color. It could be cooked to al dente. The big questions were how do I get it into that rice shape and how do I take out the cauliflower taste? The taste part was not difficult. Cauliflower is not a strong flavor so masking it with some strong flavors would be a pretty easy task. It was the shape thing that was going to be hard. Oh sure, I could pull it through a ricer, if I had a ricer that is but I don't and I wasn't going to buy one for an experiment. Turns out I didn't need one. My good old food processor worked just fine.

So those of you who are playing on the low-carb team and don't sweat a lot bit of calories this recipe (okay, isn't so much a recipe as a technique) turned out really well. Now, the photos that I took? A whole other story. They turned out awful (I finally found my camera. Yesterday. Long after I tried this out.)

Cauliflower Risotto
1 large head cauliflower
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup cream (you could use whole milk but I would stay away from non-fat)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (this is what I had around but any soft or melting cheese would work. I'd stay with something with a strongish flavor though)
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Cut up cauliflower into large chunks. Steam until cooked but still firm. You want it to give but still retain firmness. It is better to under cook the cauliflower than over cook it because you will be adding it to the cheese sauce so it will cook a bit more later on. I used my microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Time will vary by wattage of microwave. Stove top steaming I haven't a clue but I would suspect about the same. You'll want to keep a watch on it.  

The sauce: melt the butter in a large (you will be adding the cauliflower to this pot so make it fairly large) saucepan over low heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. About 5 minutes. Add cheese and cream. After the cheese melts keep this mixture warm but don't let it boil. It'll hang out while you wrangle the cauliflower.

Get out your big food processor and put in the shredding blade. Push the cooked cauliflower through the shredding blade to make it rice shaped. Push it fairly hard so the shapes are a bit bigger then if you barely gave it a shove. When all the cauliflower is shredded put it into the warm cheese sauce. Mix gently but well. Give it a taste. Add pepper and a tiny bit (1/8 teaspoon at the most) of nutmeg. Taste again to see if it needs salt. It shouldn't need much with all the cheese in it. Depending what you plan to top it with a pinch of cayenne pepper would be good. 
I served mine topped with a mushroom-sage ragout and a drizzle of apple cranberry wine reduction. The wine was something that I won from Stacy. It is a little sweet for my taste for regular drinking but it makes a mean sangria, mimosa type drink or reduction. Any red wine or good balsamic vinegar reduction would play well also.
Everyone really liked this dish. Even The Boy who hates cauliflower but loves risotto ate it and didn't even complain. Believe me, that is a compliment. Maybe, it was because I didn't tell him it was cauliflower. You can't really tell that it is from the finished product.

I couldn't tell you how many fat grams, calories or carbs it has but it shouldn't be too bad on the carbs. I make no claims to the rest. I do think that it has to be better than the alternative, rice. 

Anyway, if you are jonesing for risotto like I was (I can't be the only one that has a risotto monkey on her back) this recipe/technique will fit the bill. I plan to mix the leftovers with protein powder, form into patties and fry them up. In place of hashbrowns for breakfast. Plus, all this is meatless. And it is Monday. So therefore; Meatless Monday. Yay!



  1. I love risotto and would eat this in a heartbeat if I can find a way around the whole cow's dairy thing. Perhaps some coconut milk in place of the cream and a butt-load of Manchego instead of the Parmesan.

    I ran it through my recipe software, as you wrote it, and the macronutrient counts for 6 servings came out like this:

    Calories: 250
    Fat: 20 grams
    Saturated fat: 12 grams
    Carbohydrates: 10 grams
    Fiber: 3 grams
    Sugar: 3 grams
    Protein: 10 grams

    That's 7 grams net carbs - not bad at all!

  2. That sounds fantastic, and you're so right that the taste of cauliflower is easy to mask.

    Thanks to Jan for the nutritional breakdown too!

  3. I could EASILY forgive myself the fat on this one. It sounds too delicious to pass up! Now for John to get me a high grade processor...

  4. You could skin an Aubergine then shred it to flitters. You are looking for something largely tasteless but will suck up a bunch of complex flavours. As to the al dente, maybe fry it off in a bit of light oil then drain on a bit of blotting paper.
    Oh, tofu is truly truly inside the Pale.

  5. Jan: Thanks for the numbers. I was thinking that if anyone could make this work for her it would be you.

    Blue: It was really good. I plan to make it again soon.

    SK: Do you want me to talk to him?

    Vince: The problem that I can see with aubergine is that it gets mushy when cooked. Extra firm tofu would work but my family can spot that stuff no matter what I do with it so I don't like to hide it. If I do they'll stop eating anything that remotely looks like it could be tofu. So I put it right out in the open so they can pick it out or not.

  6. About adding protein powder - heard an interesting health show on the radio last night warning NOT to use soy protein powder for ANYTHING. Apparently, lotsa nasty chemicals are used to tease the protein out of the soy beans, which are genetically modified and patented by Monsanto anyway. Radio guy says whey and rice protein are okay, but I'm guessing the rice powder wouldn't pass low-carb muster.

  7. Oh YUM! This is going to the top of my 'must do' list! And I love that you refer to it as a technique rather than a recipe. ;)