Thursday, October 4, 2012

Artichoke risotto

Ever since I had my first steamed artichoke with vinaigrette (I'm not talking about the canned stuff found in salad bars here!) I've been mildly obsessed with them. Artichokes aren't to be had in Moscow, but here in New York, they're plentiful, fresh and sometimes inexpensive.

After about three weeks of steaming artichokes, I finally ventured into new territory: artichoke risotto. I've never tried any, and I'm not sure I ever noticed one on a restaurant menu, but I was sure artichokes would be a great addition to risotto, and I combined its rich, slightly quirky flavor with a sharp old Pecorino cheese. Result? Lovely.

Here's what I use:
per person:

1 large artichoke
1/2 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup rice (arborio, or sushi rice - short grain white rice, unwashed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cube vegetable (or mushroom) bouillon
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese (plus more for garnish)
sprinkle of salt and freshly grated black pepper
1 lemon

Caution - artichokes are prickly.

Lop off the top; about an inch and a half. Lop off the stem if it's very long; you can leave about an inch on.

Prepare a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed into it. Artichokes oxidizes rapidly; you will dip it in the lemon water as you work, and keep them submerged until they are ready to cook.
Next, pull back and break off some of the outer leaves - actually petals - about 20 or 30 of them.

Using a vegetable peeler (you can use a knife, but I find it easier with a peeler) peel/scrape away most of the tough outer parts.

You want to take away most of the fibrous green material, and leave just the white parts close to the stem.

This artichoke still needs more work.

Cut that in half - isn't that beautiful?

Dip both halves in the lemon water and leave one of them there, while you scoop out the hairy feathery middle with a (sturdy) teaspoon. You will want all of that pretty purply stuff gone. And be careful, they look pretty but they're very prickly.

Here are the cleaned artichoke halves. You will have far, far more garbage than edible parts. But that's just how artichokes are. Love them or hate them.

Lay the halves face down, and slice into wedges about a quarter of an inch thick.

Submerge in the lemon water again until ready to use.

Finely chop the garlic, dice your onion, and saute in olive oil over medium high heat.

Add the rice and continue stirring, until the rice turns slightly translucent.

Add the artichokes, and turn up the heat as high as it will go and continue tossing and stirring to avoid burning.

When everything is really really hot...

... pour in the wine, all at once. Stir quickly.

If you're feeling very fancy, you can use dry white champagne.

When the wine has almost completely evaporated, add half a cup of water, and crumble in the cube of bouillon. 

Continue stirring and cooking over high heat, adding half cups of water as it evaporated. 

Cook for 15 or 20 minutes, until the rice is still  firm, but not crunchy any more. You want it al dente, not porridge-like. 

Turn off the heat, and sprinkle in the Pecorino cheese and give it a quick stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

You can also add a sprinkle of lemon juice here if you like tart food - I do!

Sprinkle a little more Pecorino on top and serve immediately. It makes a good filling dinner even if it is vegetarian, and goes well with salad of any kind. Just be careful with wine, though, because artichokes have a chemical that change taste perception in your mouth and your wine won't taste the same. 



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