A simple white risotto topped with a rich ragu of wild cauliflower mushrooms is a great way to put your wild food first. Read on and I'll explain the finer points.
I love cauliflower mushrooms / Sparassis, I think I like the texture more than the flavor. Don't get me wrong, they taste excellent, but, it's hard to find another mushroom with a similar texture. They're just so unique. With that in mind, when I have access to some fresh cauliflower fungus, I cook them all by themselves.
A great way to enjoy, and more importantly, spread a smaller amount of mushrooms around, is by serving them with some risotto, or "rizzo" as it's referred to in kitchen parlance, in reference to the Wu-tang Clan.
You could sure stew cauliflower mushrooms or other wild mushrooms together in the rice, which would be traditional, but this preparation is for really showcasing and spreading a small amount of precious something around, and having a slightly different look than your traditional flat risotto (yes risotto should be flat, and juicy and wet).
Cheesy Risotto with Mushrooms on Top
This is a plain cheese risotto with some stewed mushrooms on top, and, it can be a blank canvas for lots of things. It's a good, relatively simple cauliflower mushroom recipe. One of my favorite versions is a spicy stew of fish spooned on top of white risotto-with or without cheese, depending on the fish (I use cheese with crustaceans, but not vertebrate fish like salmon, panfish, tuna, or walleye, etc).
The white rizzo is a blank slate, a vehicle, and an ingredient extender. Rice, stock, butter and salt is all you need. It's all about the cauliflower mushrooms here, or whatever mushrooms you want to showcase in your ragu. Use your imagination, but keep that white risotto white! Well, young peas would be ok, or few leaves of spinach.
Using different types of rice for risotto
Purists can go pick rocks. I understand, and regularly use a number of species of risotto rice, but I don't always use risotto rice. I may use barley, oats, couscous, or a combination of rice, but, I typically use light colored grains, since they look clean (wild rice is ok but only as an addition/sprinkle to another starchy rice).
Par cooking risotto
This is optional, but a fun chef trick. The secret to how restaurants serve risotto so quickly is that it's par-cooked. This is a great time saver if you want to make a batch and have it ready to serve quickly. See more in How to Pre-Cook Risotto Like a Restaurant.
Cauliflower Mushrooms: The Noodle Fungus
White Risotto with Cauliflower Mushroom Ragu
- 1 2 quart sauce pot
- 1 1 quart sauce pot
For the risotto
- 1 cup Arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
- ½ a medium-sized onion
- 5 cups hot meat stock like chicken, preferably homemade
- ½ cup grated high quality parmesan like grana Padano
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup dry white wine
For the cauliflower mushroom ragu
- 1.5 cups light meat stock such as chicken
- ½ a medium-sized onion
- 6-8 oz fresh cleaned cauliflower mushrooms cut into clusters
- Splash of dry white wine optional
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour or equivalent optional
- Fresh chopped thyme about ½ teaspoon optional
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley optional
- First, make the ragu. Mince the onion by hand or pulse in a food processor, then sweat in the tablespoon of butter in a 1 qt saucepan, season with a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, then add the flour, stir and cook for a minute.
- Deglaze with the wine, then add the mushrooms, stock and thyme. Bring the mixture to a simmer, season to taste with a pinch of salt, and allow to cook for another 15 minutes, then set aside until the risotto is done. From here the ragu can be made ahead of time up to 24 hours.
- For the risotto, in the larger sauce pan, take the rest of the minced onion and sweat in another tablespoon of the butter until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Season the rice with a pinch of salt. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, then gradually add the hot stock, ½ cup at a time, reducing the heat to medium, cooking until the rice is just tender.
- Remove the rice from the heat, vigorously stir in the remaining butter and parmesan, and a ladle of stock to adjust the consistency (it should be wet) then return to the heat for just a moment if the rice feels cool from adding the butter and parm, but don’t boil it or the cheese will curdle.
- When the rice is hot and tastes good to you, divide it equally between 4 small pasta bowls, ladle over some of the cauliflower mushroom ragu, mixing some chopped parsley into the ragu if using, and serve immediately with additional grated parmesan on the side.
Have you ever found a cauliflower mushroom in MN? I have see just about every choice edible except this species. It's so elusive!
They are here, but they are incredibly rare. Michael Karns has harvested them (Author of Untamed Mushrooms) and someone in the Wild Food Wisconsin FB group picked one this year too. I would say they're more rare than matsutake though, to be certain.
I totally agree they are rare here. But had never even really thought to look for them. So thank you. They are also much smaller than what I've found in more southern areas. I found a count of 2 - 1/2 this season (one very small). The last two, far too gone to use. But I will look in those same spots next year. Hopefully it will be another great mushroom year next year.
I love your website! I'm north of you in Northwestern Ontario Canada. And I may not get all of the mushrooms you are discovering in your area, but I do get a lot. Have JUST found the cauliflower mushroom this fall. So exciting! I look to you to see what is possible to find here. Thank you for what you do!
You're welcome. And you're lucky, cauliflower mushrooms are very, very rare down here in MN.
I found six smallish ones today in NW Florida. I took three good looking ones and left the others to do their thing. Last year I found a soccer ball sized one that weighed in at a hair shy of two pounds.
I don't know how you cooked the rice in 19 minutes. Brown rice take a long time to cook. I've been adding the stock a half cup at a time and I'm still waiting for the rice to cook. It's been over 40 minutes now which makes sense because I've never been able to make brown rice in under 45 minutes. So far the ragu tastes great. I'm sure it will be delicious in the end, but should the rice have been cooked ahead???
Ugh I’m so sorry. Sometimes to interface here automatically formats things and it’s super annoying. Risotto is never made with brown rice, it’s made with Arborio or similar varieties. I changed it. Sorry I didn’t catch that sooner-thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Found a califlower mushroom in Kingston MA today. Had never seen one before. soccer ball size. smells delicious.
Utterly divine recipe, thank you. I’ve made beer batter cauliflower fungi before and within wild mushroom soup and mixed risotto, but this recipe beats all. Maybe a light squeeze of lemon juice when served otherwise, as you say, let the mushroom do the talking. In UK this mushroom is readily found in season.
Adding a little lemon at the end is a great idea. Thanks Lynda.