Risotto ai Carciofi

carciofi lunch take two

carciofi lunch take two

Seems we are continuing with an artichoke theme this week!

After making yesterday’s stuffed ‘chokes, I decided to make an artichoke broth using all the vegetable scraps. Artichoke broth is nothing special to behold, yet it is very tasty and versatile (and reputed to have health benefits). Collect all your artichoke scraps, everything except the fuzzy choke, and if you wish give them a rinse. In a large pot sauté the scraps in olive oil with 1 peeled and quartered white or yellow onion and 1 or 2 peeled garlic cloves (optional). Cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then cover with 1.5 liters/approximately 1.5 quarts of water and bring to a boil. You can add herbs, other stock, or white wine if you wish, but if you are not yet sure what you will do with the artichoke broth once it’s finished, I would hold off on any additional aromas for now. Do salt the broth, though.

The broth will become an awful dark green color. It’s ready after about 20 minutes and all the cooked scraps are ‘mushy’. Strain out the cooked pieces, pressing out as much liquid as you can, then strain again into a large glass jar or other container.  It keeps for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.

Artichoke broth makes for a good soup base, when you are out of other stocks or just want to mix things up. Today I used the broth to make this risotto ai carciofi. This recipe is for a huge portion, good for at least 5 or 6 people. You can half the recipe or make the large batch and have tasty leftovers for lunch. Like so many things, this risotto gets better after resting a day, and it microwaves well.

Ingredients for 5 to 6 people

‘pieces’ of 2 artichokes (about 1 to 1 & ½ cups once chopped)
2 & ½ cups carnaroli rice
A little over 1 quart (1 liter) artichoke broth plus about 1 cup of other vegetable or meat stock
3 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbls butter
salt & pepper
fresh chopped parsley for garnishing
grated parmigiano cheese for garnishing

Instructions

Start to warm up the broth in a sauce pan on low heat.  Prepare the artichokes by the following method: Cut off 1 to 1 ½ inches of the thorny top, trim the fibrous outer layer off the stem, and remove the first layer of tough outer leaves. Start to slice the meat away from the stem, working up to the bottom (the ‘heart’) and breaking off more of the tough leaves as you proceed. When you can see the choke (the fuzzy, prickly core), cut it out using a small paring knife and teaspoon. Keep cutting and peeling away leaves. Basically, you want as much of the ‘fleshy’ artichoke parts as possible, and this can include parts of the smaller, more tender leaves. You don’t want anything fibrous or fuzzy.  When you have finished, chop all the pieces a bit more uniformly.

Heat the olive oil and butter together in a very large non-stick pan until combined. Add the artichoke pieces and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the rice and begin the tostatura (browning the rice with the fats in the pan) with a constant careful stirring on medium-high heat. The rice will absorb liquids as it browns. Keep ‘toasting’ the rice until it starts to change color and there is no more liquid visible in the pan. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and start to add the broth. Ladel in enough broth to cover the rice. Keep stirring and adding more broth as the rice absorbs it until the rice is cooked to your liking. Since the rice has not been cooked prior, this entire process should take about 15 minutes. I started to run out of artichoke broth (there is a precise broth-to-rice ratio, but I never looked into it), so at the last minute I poured about a cup of chicken stock first into the saucepan to heat it, then into the risotto.

When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and maybe add another spoonful or two of butter. Combine well. Now correct for salt, which will depend greatly on the saltiness of your broths/stocks so do this at the very end. Garnish with the parsley and the cheese.

Making risotto is one of those recipes that’s all about the method. With practice you quickly get the hang of the basic method and then you can start trying out all kinds of risotto! The key steps are the tostatura and the constant stirring of the incorporated liquids. Also, never use plain water for risotto, always stock or white wine (for seafood risotto, for instance) or a combination of the two.