Sunday, May 5, 2013

Artichoke Risotto

Small artichokes seem to be plentiful this year. When this
dish comes together you will primarily taste the artichokes,
Mary Small Photograpy
the rosemary and the lemon. While it doesn’t really need Parmigiano cheese, allow for personal preference and have some on the table, just in case. A tip for serving;
add a drizzle the freshest and most expensive olive oil you have just before bringing it to the table.

Serves 6 as a main course or 10 as an accompaniment.

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Ingredients: For the Artichokes (a separate recipe)  

2 pounds small artichokes (about 16, sliced and cooked)
2-4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff here!)
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary               
1 pinch red pepper flakes or cayenne
2-3 T. water
Salt to taste
Lemon juice (fresh) to taste

Ingredients for the Risotto               
4 T. extra virgin olive oil               
2 C. Arborio rice                   
½ Yellow onion finely diced                   
¼ C. pancetta cut in small strips crosswise (Fra’Mani is my favorite)

6 C. chicken stock
¼ C. white wine
2-4 garlic cloves chopped
1 lemon cut into quarters
1 T. chopped rosemary (best to chop immediately before adding)
Sprig of fresh rosemary (about 3-4 inches long)
2 T. chopped parsley

Artichoke preparation: Please see recipe for Small Artichokes with Rosemary, Garlic, and Lemon
Once the artichokes are ‘just’ done, set aside to cool on a plate.

A few tips about making risotto
•    Make sure all your ingredients are measured, prepped and ready. Cooking the risotto will take about 20 minutes and everything should be in place before you begin.
•    Chicken stock needs to be at a low boil. Season it with salt until it tastes good.
•    Have a teakettle with boiling water just in case you run out of stock.
•    Most people think risotto requires constant stirring. I don’t think so. But it does require that you watch it and stir every 2-3 minutes.
•    The rice needs to be simmering at all times. The liquid begins to form an unctuous ‘sauce’ in the first few minutes after adding liquid and you want to keep that sauce in tact by providing boiling liquid as needed.
•    The risotto needs liquid when the level of juice falls below the rice, i.e., the rice will look dry on the top. Add enough liquid to cover and keep at a gentle simmer. See photo below.

To begin:
Set heat to medium. Add 2 T. olive oil to a 3-quart saucepan. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the rice and sauté another 3 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the white wine and about 6-8 ounces of boiling chicken stock. Stir. Reduce heat to low. The pot should be kept at a soft simmer for the remainder of the cooking process. There should be enough liquid such that it covers the top of the rice by about ¼ inch. Stir frequently for the first few minutes until the heat settles and you establish the right amount of liquid in the pan. Then add liquid just as the rice on top begins to be exposed to the air (and will begin to appear dry.)

Add the sprig of rosemary, most of the chopped garlic and a

pinch or two of salt. The rice should now be in “cruise mode” where it is simmering steadily. Add more stock as needed and stir (every few minutes.) The cooking liquid should appear thick and unctuous. Don’t be tempted to multitask here. Stick with the rice and you will be rewarded. At about half way through the cooking (about 10-12 minutes) add the artichokes along with a ladle full of hot stock. Squeeze two lemon quarters and drop into the rice. As the rice comes closer to being done you want to add smaller amounts of stock more frequently. It still should retain a slight saucy, loose feel as you stir. (No gloppy rice!!!) Think loose and saucy. But, not too loose!

Taste the rice occasionally and add salt as necessary. In the final few minutes the hard center of the rice will begin to soften. Add the chopped rosemary. Add the last of the chopped garlic. I like to add another tablespoon or two of olive oil (did I mention add the good stuff?) Squeeze the remaining lemon into the pot as well as a pinch of cayenne (in lieu of pepper flakes.) It should be tasting absolutely delicious at this point and you are just waiting for the proper doneness of the rice and the liquid to evaporate to just the right consistency. If you run out of stock use boiling water from the teakettle.

At the restaurant we would put a serving into a shallow bowl or plate and shake it. If the rice spreads out and the juice didn’t run or appear soupy, then the consistency was perfect. This looks great served on a large shallow platter or bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and a drizzle of some good oil.

Writing this recipe makes me think of Paul Bertolli, who

taught me how to make a mean pot of rice. I am forever grateful! A gift that keeps on giving…

Leftovers? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this does not reheat well. But I just made an awesome discovery! It is absolutely delicious cold, or at room temp. For a few days afterward I pulled some out for lunch, letting it sit on the counter to warm up slightly. Then I crumbled some Reggiano over the top, added a squeeze of lemon and just a smidge of olive oil. Great lunch!

Special thanks to Mary Small Photography for the pictures this month!!!

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