One of the things that many cooks and chefs do when they have time off is reach out to other restaurants and ask to do a brief ‘stage’, or internship with them. If you’re lucky they say ‘yes’!
So, recently I spent several weeks in St. Helena, California, with Silver Oak Winery Chef Dominic Orsini.
While there, I toured Silver Oak’s new state-of-the-art Alexander Valley Winery, helped in their vegetable garden and attended the tasting of their Twomey Pinots prior to launch. It was all so wonderful, but mostly I tried to learn as much as I could from their incredibly talented culinary team.
One of the dishes I brought back was their Cauliflower Risotto. It’s an all-vegetable dish, finished with parmesan, parsley, lemon and bacon. I’ve changed it up from Chef Dominic’s original recipe for ease of preparation so you can make it yourself. Grab a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy!
(Adapted from Chef Dominic Orsini of Silver Oak Vineyards)
1 head cauliflower
1 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. raw blanched almonds, or whatever almonds you have on hand
½ cup chopped bacon, cooked until crunchy (use pancetta if you don’t want a smoky finish)
½-1 cup parmesan
1 tsp. lemon zest, plus more for garnish
2-3 Tbsp. lemon
2 Tbsp. preserved lemon peel, diced (optional)
½-2 tsp. salt, to taste
½ tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
fruity olive oil (like lemon olive oil) and coarse coarse salt (we like Maldon), for garnish
Remove and save the cauliflower stem. Cut the florets into smaller pieces and process in batches in a food processor until they break into rice-sized pieces. You should have about 5-6 cups depending on the size of the head of cauliflower. Reserve riced cauliflower.
Prepare cauliflower cream. Place water in a medium saucepan with the cauliflower stems and boil until the stems are tender. Drain stems, saving the cooking water, and place stems in a blender with 2 Tbsp. of the cauliflower water and 1/4 cup heavy cream and puree until completely smooth. It may take 2-3 minutes to achieve a smooth creamy texture. Set cauliflower cream and remaining cauliflower cooking water aside.
To prepare risotto: Heat a large, tall-sided sauté pan over medium low heat and add 2 Tbsp olive oil and the riced cauliflower. Sweat (cook without browning) for about 3 minutes, add half of the reserved cauliflower cooking water and cook for 2 minutes.
Next, add the cauliflower cream and heat through for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup parmesan and stir until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. Add bacon/pancetta and a bit more cauliflower stock if mixture is thick. You want the risotto to be a bit loose. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, pepper and 1 tsp. salt. It may need more salt or more lemon juice, but remember you will add parmesan to the final dish, so salt it just to the point that it might need just a tad bit more to make if perfect.
To plate: heat pasta bowls in the oven or microwave, divide cauliflower risotto between bowls, sprinkle each dish with chopped almonds, parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, and a really fruity olive, and a pinch of coarse salt. Serve immediately.
- If using lemon zest or preserved lemon, only add during the last 5 minutes of cooking, they will turn the risotto bitter if left in too long.
- We save the cauliflower cooking water to help keep the risotto loose, but if you don’t have enough cooking liquid left over, use water. We purposely don’t use chicken stock because it overpowers the cauliflower, and it keeps it vegetarian.
- Use any nuts you have on hand, the purpose is to add a bit of toothsome crunch to the dish to mimic the traditional rice dish.
- I like to have my “riced” cauliflower be in varying sizes with some pieces less cooked then others, again, it adds texture to the dish.