Before we talk about the possible cataclysmic demise of this whole project over one really dumb vegetable, let’s spend some time cherishing one of my biggest wins and appreciating the ingenuity of one of my most awesome supporters. My third and final hit on my plea for y’all to spring me from my January blues came from Future New York Times Best Seller of the World’s Most Ridiculously Amazing Cookbooks Sarah F., who has been sending love and advice from afar since the project began and who really saved the day on artichokes.
I was beginning to worry that I was going to have to take my first loss on artichokes, and truthfully, if I was going to lose one I wasn’t beating myself up about it too much because I’ve had a good run and really, artichokes are fucking disgusting. I probably would have been a pretty good sport about this loss. Then I got this e-mail/recipe from Sarah, which ranks right up there with that fake e-mail I made up from rhu-Barb about how pretty I am as my favorite e-mail of the project, and I’m going to paste the whole thing here because it’s just too seriously awesome not to share in all its amazing glory:
Choose Your Own Adventure Risotto
1 cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped (Fuck the fresh artichokes. Risotto’s got enough going on without adding fresh artichokes to the mix. Most acceptable canned vegetable…well…maybe not, but close.)
The Choose Your Own Part
I Need Meat
1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast(s), cut into 1-inch pieces
I Like Fungus
1 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spinach, chopped; 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
The JVV Original
Mix and match any combination of above for the true choose your own adventure
The Risotto Regulars
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped (Yes, this is onion and I know you will omit it but I wouldn’t be doing risotto justice if I left this out.)(Note from JVV: Sarah was right about that.)
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
- 4 cups broth, chicken or veggie, but get enough for 6 cups of broth. You might need it. You’ll use an extra 1/3 cup broth if you go the cream route
- 1 t oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup dry white wine or cream
You can supplement the broth with either cream or dry white wine. Cream obviously makes it even more creamy but the white wine gives it an edge. Think goat cheese versus an aged white Vermont cheddar. I think the white wine would be best for the chicken and the veggies cream, but I can’t honestly say that the other way around wouldn’t be yummy as well. Generally, when you use the white wine, you’ll use more broth to achieve the same level of creaminess of the rice. You can also just do broth by itself.
Do all your chopping and measuring first, cooking show style. Not only is it fun but David will be doing the dishes, right? This layout is seriously needed for risotto. Shit happens fast.
Warm your broth in the microwave, about 60-90 seconds. If you are using cream, add it to the broth and warm together.
Heat the oil and melt butter in a large skillet or wok (medium-high heat). I find that woks work surprisingly well for risotto. TJ got me a dutch oven for Christmas—no, not the fart kind!—and I am like 85 percent sure it will make the bomb risotto, but I haven’t tried it out yet so I can’t really safely recommend that cookware.
Sauté shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add artichokes and sauté another minute or so.
I Like Meat
Add chicken and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes or until white and slightly browning. Remove from pan and keep warm.
I Like Fungus
Add mushrooms and cook for a couple minutes. Keep in pan when you add in rice.
Go directly to adding rice. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
Add rice and stir constantly until rice looks translucent. Not more than a couple minutes.
Mix in oregano. Add white wine or 1/3 cup broth (if you’re using cream). Stir constantly and liquid will be absorbed within a minute or so.
Turn heat down to medium.
Add ½ cup broth at a time, adding an additional ½ cup once the liquid has been absorbed almost completely. The goal is to never let the rice stick to the bottom of the pan so when you first add the broth, you have to stir pretty constantly. As you add more broth, stirring can become less frequent but don’t leave it alone for more than a minute or two.
When you have added the 3rd ½ cup of broth, add the spinach.
When you have used 3 whole cups (6 half cups) of broth, it’s time to:
Taste the rice to see how creamy it is. If it’s still a little chewy-ish, then keep adding another ½ cup broth until it’s totally melt-in-your mouth creamy. There have been a few times where I’ve found that I need to warm up more broth and keep going. You didn’t fuck it up if you use all 4 cups of broth and find that you still need more. I mean, you probably didn’t cook the rice long enough but the end result will be just as awesome. You just need to keep going with the broth until it gets there.
I Like Meat
Add the chicken back in.
Add the sundried tomatoes.
Cook and stir for a few minutes more until the chicken and tomatoes are warm.
Add the parmesan cheese and give it a good sprinkle of pepper and salt.
Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
I was very, very excited about this recipe. Even though it’s been since bacon peas (or maybe even bacon beets) that I’ve pulled off a truly multiple-moving-parts recipe, I had no doubt that getting back into the kitchen would be like learning to ride a bike again. My confidence in myself was exaggeratedly high. Then I remembered the last time I tried to ride a bike after not having ridden in a while I didn’t even make it out of my driveway before I faceplanted, so I began to rethink my laissez faire approach to artichoke risotto and decided to study Sarah’s recipe a little more closely prior to launching my final artichoke battle.
Did you read Sarah’s recipe?
To cut down on the number of things that could potentially go wrong (because let’s be real, having a grossly inflated ego only occasionally works out well for me and I think that’s mostly just dumb luck), I sent David to the store for all my I Like Meat (shocking) artichoke risotto ingredients (this was actually strategic, since I’ve been lost in the store trying to find Arborio rice and if my ego was going to take a hit that night it wasn’t going to be because Publix and I didn’t see eye to eye on where it should stock rice).
When David got home from the store, he handed me this:
I was expecting something more like this (but less foreign):
But he insisted the jars and the cans all said the exact same thing, so I tried not to let it ruin my night (I’m the most unpleasantly melodramatic person I know, but I’m an eyelash-batter, which somehow makes my brattiness charming…in my head….), but the artichokes in a jar were marinated in some strong smelling spices and were smelly and slimy and I had to fight my gag reflex for a few minutes to keep from puking on them.
Meanwhile, I had invited Tom and Melissa to join us for dinner and while I was trying not to vomit in our future risotto, they were having fantastic success purchasing fresh artichokes at the farmer’s market. I’ve been told time and time again that fresh artichokes are so not worth the hassle, but Tom insisted he bring some for me to try because I can’t say I’ve fully immersed myself in the artichoke experience if I haven’t at least tried a fresh one (plus my exuberant enthusiasm over Choose Your Own Adventure Artichoke Risotto somehow led him to believe it would be terrible, i.e., his confidence in me was more realistic, so his real motive for bringing the artichokes was to keep from starving).
Tom and Melissa arrived with some crazy little prickly things that looked like ripe pine cones, I scrubbed my canned artichokes free of their nauseating marinade, and then shit went down. My final artichoke battle was Me against Choose Your Own Adventure Artichoke Risotto against Fresh, Steamed Artichoke Dipped in Melted Butter. It was a big night for JVV.