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Risotto with Artichokes

Artichokes have the reputation of being difficult to pair with wine. Sometimes they make red wines taste bitter and whites seem oddly sweet. There are, however, two ways to work with them: overpower them with a tannic, herbal red or, better yet, choose a crisp, very dry Sauvignon Blanc. Dependable: grassy and herbal Sauvignon Blanc. Daring: leafy Cabernet Franc.

Ingredients:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 to 6 large artichokes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • Pinch of dried oregano (optional)
  • 1 cup water, or as needed
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese,
      plus more for serving (optional)

Directions:

Fill a large bowl three-fourths full of water and add the lemon juice. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, trim off the stem flush with the bottom. If the stem has any tenderness, peel it lightly and cut into slices 1/3 inch thick. Drop the slices into the lemon water. Snap off all the leaves from the artichoke until only the tender heart remains. Cut lengthwise into quarters. Cut away the prickly choke and drop the artichoke pieces into the lemon water.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Drain the artichokes and add to the pan along with the garlic, oregano and enough water to just cover the artichokes. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.

In a wide sauté pan or risotto pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the rice and stir until opaque, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add a ladleful of the simmering stock and stir until the stock is absorbed. Reduce the heat to low and continue to add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more. The rice is cooked when the rice grains are al dente (tender but firm to the bite) at the center and creamy on the outside, 20 to 25 minutes total. Stir in the artichoke mixture with the last addition of stock.

When the rice is done, stir in the remaining 4 Tbs. butter, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup cheese. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve. Pass additional cheese at the table.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Food & Wine Pairing, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1999).