OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Cauliflower gets risotto treatment in skillet recipe

Risotto-ed Cauliflower (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I am one of those odd people who eats cauliflower because I actually like the taste of cauliflower. Well, cooked cauliflower, anyway. You can keep your chalky crudite.

I like its mild, unassuming nature. I like that it can be cooked using just about any method — roasting, steaming, frying, braising, poaching. I like its vegetal flavor that turns nutty under the high heat of roasting in the oven or pan frying. I love how it plays so well with others, namely cheese, nuts, fresh herbs, chiles and butter.

I like that a whole roasted cauliflower looks like a brain.

I don't like when cauliflower tries to be something it's not. I'm looking at you, cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower hummus, cauliflower mashed potatoes and cauliflower taco meat.

So I when I came across a recipe for cauliflower risotto I was skeptical. Like its sibling cauliflower rice (technically riced cauliflower), cauliflower risotto doesn't actually contain rice, the grain of which Arkansas is the leading producer in the United States.

Instead cauliflower rice is cauliflower that has been so finely chopped it resembles grains of rice. I often keep a bag or two stashed in the freezer. It makes an excellent alternative to rice when you're short on time or wanting to add a vegetable to your meal. (Contrary to what people — especially those singing the praises of low-carb diets — say, riced cauliflower does not taste like rice. It tastes like cauliflower.)

Cauliflower risotto is simply riced cauliflower cooked to resemble risotto. A bit of cornstarch whisked into the broth and wine stands in for the creamy starchiness released by the traditional Arborio rice.

I flavored my "risotto" with shallot, garlic and fresh herbs finished with a big pat of butter and a shower of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The result was a delicious cauliflower dish, but it won't fool risotto lovers.

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  • Risotto-ed Cauliflower for Two
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallot or red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen riced cauliflower, thawed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ½ cup broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herb such as basil or parsley
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

In a skillet or wide saucepan, heat enough olive oil to coat over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until tender. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the riced cauliflower and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and any excess moisture has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a spouted measure, whisk together the broth, wine and cornstarch. Add to skillet and bring to a simmer; cook stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, herbs and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggianno to taste.

Makes 2 generous servings.