It was not that long ago that vegetarians dining at most restaurants had very few options. Most places offered little more than a pasta option. Thankfully, these days restaurants are finally realizing that there is real finesse and flavor in meatless and vegan options.
Now, imagine that as a vegetarian you sat down at a restaurant to find real protein rich options, bold satisfying flavors and enough foodie appeal to make meat-eaters turn heads and ask the waiter what you have on your plate. The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas thought that would be a good idea too so they hired highly-acclaimed and insanely creative vegan chef, Tal Ronnen (author of The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat) to create a series of menu items for restaurants across the Wynn Resort. Now when you sit down at SW Steakhouse you are as likely to be tempted by Roasted Quinoa Cakes or Vegan Meatballs as you are a steak.
Few things are as fun for me as a recipe challenge, so I thought I would remake one of the vegan options from the Wynn Resort restaurant menus and make it my own – just to show that you don’t have to be in Vegas to eat as the Vegans do!
I knew I wanted to use mushrooms. I love the meaty flavor. I wanted to use ingredients that were readily available regardless if you are in a Vegas kitchen or small town USA. I choose to turn the Mushroom Risotto with Carmelized Onions on the menu at Lakeside into a crispy risotto cake.
These risotto cakes are delicious. Not only are they meaty, flavorful and crispy, but the roasted onions and tomatoes (drizzled with a little balsamic) provide a hearty acid note that make this a wonderful meal or a great appetizer for entertaining. Most of the work in this dish is done in the oven too, so it isn’t as hard as it could be. No beating and stirring the risotto, no adding in hot stock one ladle at a time. In this risotto you saute the veggies and add the rice then let the oven do the work. I like to stir the sauteed mushrooms in at the end after the risotto is cooked to keep the color lighter, but that’s about as hard as it gets. You make the risotto, tomatoes and onions ahead of time. Then when you are ready to eat, you just cut the chilled risotto and saute it in a little olive oil until crispy. Everyone will be impressed and you’ll have brought a little Vegas glam to your vegan meal. Enjoy!
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups boiling water
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, minced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1-8 ounce package sliced crimini mushrooms
- 1-5 ounce package sliced shiitaki mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
- 1 cup arborio rice or short grain rice
- 1/2 cup white wine (vegan) or use additional broth
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour boiling water over the dried porcini mushrooms and allow them to soak for 10 minutes. After soaking, remove the porcini mushrooms and roughly chop. Reserve liquid and set aside. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large oven safe pan or dutch oven. Add all of the fresh mushrooms with a 1/2 teaspon salt. Cook stirring only once or twice until the mushrooms are brown. Add the porcini mushrooms and cook for another minute. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Return pan to the heat and another two tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for several minutes until the onion is translucent, but not yet brown. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for about four minutes, until the rice is translucent. Add the wine and cook for another three minutes; most of the liquid will evaporate. Add the broth and reserved mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Stir once and cover. Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking. Remove from the oven, stir in the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and cover. Allow to cool to room temperature then refrigerate for several hours until cold throughout or overnight.
- When the risotto is chilled and firm, use a knife, or round cutter to portion the risotto out into 2” cakes, carefully pushing the cutter down to cut through any mushroom pieces. Heat a large 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully place half the risotto cakes in the pan and allow them to brown and crisp on one side. Do not move them while they are cooking or they will fall apart. When the bottom side is dark golden brown and crispy (about 6 minutes), use a spatula to turn them over and cook them until the other side is brown and crispy. Carefully move them to a tray and repeat the process with the remaining tablespoon of oil and risotto cakes.
- To make the cakes ahead of time, reheat in a hot 400 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with the roasted onions and tomatoes (recipe below) and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
- I get about 24 2" cakes from this recipe - 4 per serving.
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/2” rings
- 9 plum tomatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 sprigs rosemary
- balsamic vinegar for serving
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss onion slices, quartered tomatoes, olive oil, salt and rosemary. Spread evenly in the baking sheet and bake for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the onions are brown and caramelized and the tomatoes are soft, remove from oven and allow to cool. If desired, remove the skins of the tomatoes by peeling them off then drizzle with balsamic before serving. Will keep in the fridge for several days.