My mom used to say when we were kids that on any given day she could usually count on one of us being bad and one of us being good. Rare were the days that my sister and I were both bad at the same time (and probably more rare were the days we were both good), but when the cosmos decided to gang up on my mom and those bad days came to pass, we could usually count on her coping by taking deep breaths and threatening us within an inch of our lives. (Squash casserole night was one of those times.)
Meet Maggie, my sweet baby lovey love who has mostly good days. Maggie is pictured here and with her bestie, Pumpkin, who, like Maggie, is almost always a good dog. Aw.
Before we get on with it with artichokes and my world’s most awesome dog, I first just want to apologize to my mom for all the days I was bad, and especially for the days Bethany and I were bad together (even though those weren’t my fault, she started it). Then, I want to say screw you, Maggie, my world’s almost always most awesome dog, for deciding the day I came out of retirement and tried what was arguably the most complicated recipe I’ve ever cooked was the best day for you to be the baddest dog and show off all of your bad dog tricks, and screw you for taking Pumpkin down with you. Screw you, Maggie, screw you.
While we were waiting on Tom and Melissa to arrive, I was chopping, dicing, measuring, cleaning, sorting, separating, and otherwise preparing everything for risotto “cooking show style,” because according to Sarah, “shit happens fast.” I was surprised to learn this about risotto since every other thing I’ve ever heard about it ever was that it takes forever and is laborious. But I did what she said. Plus I got a ton of mixing and measuring bowls for Christmas and I can’t pass up an opportunity to get them dirty.
As I moved things from my chopping and prep area to my staging area, Maggie would be one step ahead, behind, beside, in front of, or underneath me, whichever was the most inconvenient, looking at me with her irresistible puppy dog eyes, and I would imagine her saying in the voice I’ve ascribed to her, which sounds kind of mannish (she’s a big dog) but adorable, excitable and alert, “Hi Mom! Do you need help?! Did you drop something?! Will you drop something?! Drop something! Mom! Mom! Mom! Drop it, drop it, drop it, draaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhp iiiiiiit!”
Then I growled and pointed to an imaginary spot on the other side of the kitchen , “Maggie, place. Sit.” Nothing. No movement. Still with the big eyes. Panting. And one more time, “But did you drop something?”
Then the doorbell rang and pandemonium ensued. Maggie raced for the door, but then realized there might be unattended food she could appropriate, so she skidded into the wall, taking the hallway rug with her, did a 180 and raced back to the kitchen, but then realized Pumpkin was at the door, so she skidded into the dishwasher, taking the kitchen rug with her, did a 180 and raced back to Pumpkin, and then both of them took off for one of the cats, who smacked the shit out of and drew blood on both of them. Melissa, who has grown quite adept at managing our little brood (especially since that one time I caught my kitchen on fire and thought the best thing to do was nothing at all), herded the pups outside. I channeled my mom. I took deep breaths. And then I began to think of things I could threaten Maggie with.
With the dogs outside, I turned my attention back to artichokes. Tom’s fresh artichokes looked more fruity than vegetable-y, but I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough, however, to do it myself. My friends’ warnings against working with fresh artichokes were good enough for me, and I was reasonably confident I would win artichokes with Sarah’s risotto, but Tom was hell bent on me eating a fucking artichoke. Whatever, Tom. So I made him do it. Welcome to my home. Cook your own damn food.
Tom put his artichokes on to steam and I started my ritual of reading the recipe 42 times. The difficult thing about Choose Your Own Adventure Artichoke Risotto was that there was a lot more to read, plus I think I made a new choice each time I read it, but that definitely made it more fun, especially for me since, ironically, I don’t really like working from recipes anyway. Choose Your Own Adventure became “Choose Your Own Adventure and Cross your Fingers You Can Remember What You Chose Last Time and Try Not to Fuck This Up, You Culinary Moron,” but because Sarah added that one JVV Original version in there (which I think she did to save me from myself), I was pretty self assured that no matter what happened in the end, it wouldn’t kill us. You gotta have goals.
And then, what the? Who let the dogs in?? Don’t they just look like they’re up to no good? They were. They were scheming.
While the dogs schemed and Tom’s artichokes steamed, I launched into my first ever risotto. This was a proud, proud moment for me. I stood over the artichokes and garlic (no shallots) sauteeing in the pan and thought about mushroom week when my other friend Sarah L. suggested mushroom risotto. I thought that was a grand plan, except for two things: A) I didn’t know what risotto was, and B) that was the first time I got lost in the store looking for something I wouldn’t have been able to identify if my life depended on it. I bit off more than I could chew that week. This time, though, I had no doubt I could do it. Twenty-someodd Battles Into the Project Me thought back to Two Battles Into the Project Me and how far we’ve all come together, and then we both stood there and congratulated About To Make The Bomb Risotto Me. We totally gloated.
And who let the dogs in?!
Of course, at that point I was only sauteeing shit. I was reading this part for the forty-third time–Add rice and stir constantly until rice looks translucent; not more than a couple minutes—an instruction I did not comprehend in the least, because there was no liquid in the pan yet and the rice already kind of looked translucent, when I remembered that I’ve never actually had risotto before and I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking for, how it’s supposed to taste, what the consistency should be…nothing. I called Sarah. She didn’t answer. Shit. David was standing behind me while this fast shit was happening (she didn’t lie, the beginning shit does happen fast), we both panicked, and I briefly reverted back to Two Battles Into the Project Me and said, What do I do?? He thought oil, I thought broth, we did both, neither was right. Sarah called back in the, like, milliseconds after David and I fucked it all up. She said yeah, just cook it for a couple of minutes and then start adding broth. I was like, oh, so you mean, follow your directions? Whatever, yo. “Yeah, I totally did that, it’s fiiiiiiiiine,” I lied.
And who let the goddamn dogs in?!
Then we stirred. And added broth. And stirred some more. And stirred and stirred and stirred.
Melissa used two hands.
Toward the end I got tired of stirring and pouring and stirring and pouring, so I decided to pour the rest of the broth in all at once right as David read aloud from the Joy of Cooking, “Toward the end, add less broth each time.” Faaaaack.
Finally, I added back the chicken and artichokes and grated some fresh cheese on top and TADA! My first risotto! It was a monumental moment.
Tom worked out the timing perfectly so that his artichokes were ready at the same time as the risotto and we all sat down to this remarkably pretty plate of food.
Risotto, eh. No doubt I fucked it up from the get go with that oil and broth situation and continued to ruin it by not adding the right amount of cream or wine or broth at the right times and letting it get too sticky. On the up side, since I’ve never had risotto before and had nothing to compare it to, it was perfectly lovely to me.
Fresh artichokes….seriously. For real. Where have you been all my life? Moreover….fresh artichokes dipped in hot butter. My one true love. Thank GOD Tom doesn’t read the blog.
And this night would have ended sweetly with another victory for JVV had our perfect artichoke dinner not been rudely interrupted by the most gruesome, horrifying, nauseating sound coming from the kitchen just as we were cleaning our plates.
Ok, I don’t know how to spell dogs vomiting, but that’s totally what was happening. Then we saw the grossest thing ever: Maggie and Pumpkin way too happily eating the entire block of cheese Maggie had surreptitiously swiped from the counter, devoured–plastic wrapper and all–and then immediately expelled. Gross! We scrambled to clean that up, but Maggie was all like, “No worries, Mom, we’ll just chew on this here vomit-flavored rug.” Mmmm puke.
For real, though. Who let the dogs in?