While wandering the Parisian markets, I constantly saw beautiful baby artichokes that were begging to be cooked. I love love love artichokes, and will eat them any which way they are served. For the final feast prepared in our little kitchen, I decided to make an artichoke risotto I came across by Jamie Oliver. Not exactly french food, I know.
Jamie uses his standard risotto bianco recipe as the base, and fancies it up with artichoke, onion, lemon zest, and mint for a refreshingly light (hah!) take on the classic dish. Now you'll notice that bacon is an ingredient in mine, and not in Jamie's. That's because everything is better with a little bacon! Feel free to omit it, the dish will still be delicious.
While I love artichokes, I am the first to admit that they aren't always easy to prep. I've already dreamt up the lazy version of this dish which would use some pre-cooked, artisanal artichoke hearts from the cheese/deli sections of Whole Foods, etc.
Artichoke Risotto Ingredients by Jamie Oliver (Serves 6):
2 pints organic stock (chicken, fish or vegetable, whichever you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
400g (2 cups) risotto rice
2 wineglasses of dry white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
70 g butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
6 small violet artichokes
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
Peel the artichokes back to their pale, light leaves, then halve them and remove the hairy chokes. Immerse the artichokes in water with half the lemon juice, with a heavy lid placed on top of them to keep them immersed and stop them discoloring. No matter how hard I try, I can never manage to keep the artichokes from browning just a little bit.
Heat up stock in pot.
Chop the bacon into 1/2 - 1/4 inch lardons and put it into a separate pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until lightly browned and crispy. Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, maybe 5-7 minutes, remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
If you use bacon, there is no need to add additional olive oil or butter. That fat leftover in the pan is liquid gold! If you prefer a veggie version, skip the bacon and use the olive oil and butter. Add the onion, garlic and celery, and cook very low and slow for about 15 minutes.
When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat. The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute add the wine and keep stirring.
Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly on the outside.
In the pot heating the stock, add 6 of your prepared artichoke halves into the simmering stock. I had to add an extra cup or so to fully cover the artichokes. Just don't add this extra into the risotto.
Back to your risotto pan! Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
Slice the remaining artichoke halves very finely and stir into risotto about 7-9 minutes after adding stock - it should be about halfway cooked at this point. Continue stirring the stock into the rice until you've been doing so for a total of 15-20 minutes.
Taste the rice to check if it's cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don't forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes
Remove the cooked artichokes from the stock pan and toss with most of the lemon zest, the chopped mint leaves and a splash of olive oil.
Plating the Risotto:
Spoon the risotto onto 4 plates and place the dressed artichokes on top. Drizzle with any remaining dressing from the bowl and serve sprinkled with extra Parmesan and the rest of the lemon zest. If you chose to use bacon, toss those bits on the top.
Enjoy with some crusty bread, and a big glass of the rest of your white vino.