December 21, 2012

Risotto with Artichokes, Peas and Lemon

Risotto with Artichokes, Peas and Lemon
Winter is just risotto season, isn't it?  I love risotto, so creamy, rich and satisfying!  It's like polenta or grits- a blank canvas you can use to show off any of your favorite flavors- in this case, artichoke hearts, peas and lemon, yum!  I LOVE artichoke hearts!  Making risotto is more about visual cues as opposed to cooking time- so depending on multiple factors, your amount of liquid and cooking time will vary from mine.  But, once you know how to make it, you'll use it again and again!  And you can add anything to it!

Risotto with Artichokes, Peas and Lemon
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 cups risotto rice (i.e. arborio, but there are other varieties)
1 cup white wine (not a sweet variety)
9 oz. package frozen artichoke hearts
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas ('petite' or 'tender,' meaning younger and sweeter)
sea salt
white or black pepper, freshly ground

I use a large round dutch oven to make this- so get a pot that has some depth, this makes a fair amount.  Maybe 6-8 servings.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, let it cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes.  You want the onion to begin to look both yellow in color and somewhat wilted, but not browned or caramelized.

Risotto rice
Add the risotto rice and stir well, allowing the grains of rice to be coated by the oil.  Continue to occasionally stir, until each grain has a center that is still white and opaque, but the outer edges look translucent (total time for this about 2-3 minutes).  Add the wine and allow the liquid to be absorbed.

For this next section, adding the liquid (chicken stock and water), you have two choices.  You can either add them at room temperature, or you can heat them in a separate pot.  Heating the chicken stock and water will make your overall cooking time shorter (but you don't have to).  Add the liquid, one cup or so at a time, reduce the heat to medium low, stir occasionally and allow the liquid to absorb.  Repeat this, adding liquid, stirring, until about 6 cups have been added, then start to taste it to test doneness.  You'll know by it's texture whether or not it needs more liquid.  If you use a different variety of risotto rice, this will vary.  I use arborio and it was about 7 cups of liquid for 3 cups of rice.

Once the risotto has absorbed the liquid, add the butter, freshly grated cheese, and peas (I use frozen peas).  By this time, it will look creamy and smooth.  Stir, and allow the peas to become heated through.  Add the lemon juice.  Add generous amounts of sea salt and freshly ground pepper- my guess is that you'll need quite a bit of both- taste it as you go along so you achieve a level you like.  With regard to the lemon juice, I was able to get one ounce from a large lemon, but not all lemons are the same size, juiciness, etc., so it's better to measure the liquid.  You may need more than one lemon.

Enjoy!  You can have this as a weeknight dinner or as a side dish- why not with a seared rib eye and a salad of arugula and lemon?  If you make it ahead of time and it seems dry or stiff, just add a little water and reheat it- it should once again have a nice consistency.

Happy holidays!