Cauliflower Risotto with Brie and Almonds from Gourmet Magazine, October/November 2008

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It was 29 degrees outside when I woke up this morning. There was frost blanketing the carpet of leaves in the back yard. As I watched our young chicks scratching for cracked corn and other goodies, I could see that they were shivering a bit.  It was a see-your-breath kind of morning.

In fact, it’s a cool day in North Carolina. It’s the kind of cool that gets the cobwebs swept out of the fireplace and the flue opened. It’s the kind of cool that makes me grateful for living in North Carolina, where I know that even if the thermometer never inches very high, unlike Chicago, I will feel warmth when I face the sun and let it shine on my face. I don’t fear frost bite.

It’s the kind of cool that begs for hot, creamy comfort food. Oatmeal, maybe, for breakfast. For lunch, risotto. Rich, creamy risotto.

The Process
I am such a risotto fan. I don’t know that there’s a recipe for it in a magazine I’ve been going through that I haven’t made. I would have probably chosen this Gourmet issue because of this recipe, I can say that much.

Think of it. Cauliflower combined with Brie cheese and creamy risotto. Topped with roasted almonds. What’s not to love?

The only thing about risotto is that it’s a dish that requires commitment. From the moment the rice is poured in the sauce pan, you have to be willing to stand at the stove. Even if the doorbell chimes. And the phone rings. And you’re used to multi-tasking.

So, turn everything off and get your chicken broth simmering.

Heat butter and oil in a sauce pan and saute the cauliflower florets until they’re crisp-tender and start to get golden. If you’re the kind of person that likes your cauliflower mushy (like me), don’t listen to that inner mushy voice this time. Just cook it to crisp-tender. The risotto is creamy enough. You want a little texture; just this one time.

Remove the crisp-tender cauliflower to a bowl and add more oil to the sauce pan. Pour in the rice and cook it, stirring the whole time. Add the wine (woo hoo). Simmer and stir until said happy-juice is absorbed. Add broth. Simmer. Stir. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Once you’ve hit about 3 to 3 1/2 cups (or 20 minutes), the rice should be just tender and the risotto nice and creamy. At that point, stir in chunks of rind-less Brie, the cauliflower and salt and pepper to taste. Top the risotto with toasted, sliced almonds and serve (or just eat it all yourself).

The Verdict
Did you see the six-word phrase about eating it all yourself? I’ve not shared this. I’ve not let anyone know that it’s in the fridge. Risotto is rich anyhow, but throw in the tangy, creamy wonderfulness of Brie and it takes  the dish to a new level. I loved this rice. The almonds and crisp-tender cauliflower go perfectly with the creaminess of the risotto. The nuttiness of the Brie matches the almonds so very, very well.

At some point I may have to share this with Hubby, but not today.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I would have preferred a little more wine flavor. I think I’d start with a half cup if not 3/4 cup of wine.

Cauliflower Risotto with Brie and Almondsprint this recipe
from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
3 thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
5 oz Brie, rind discarded, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Bring broth, water, and thyme sprigs to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-qt heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté cauliflower with 1/4 tsp salt until crisp-tender and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add thyme leaves and sauté 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to pan, then add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring, until wine has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup hot broth and briskly simmer, stirring, until broth has been absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18 to 22 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.)

Stir in cauliflower, Brie, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with some of remaining broth if desired. Serve topped with almonds.

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