Thursday, September 13, 2007

Naked Chef Week Ends With a Bang!

Tonight's final Jamie Oliver meal was Risotto ai Carcofi (aka Risotto with Artichokes). Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to either the recipe or common sense when I was shopping for ingredients for this meal. Did I buy white wine? No. Did I have the white onion and celery that Jamie has you sauteeing as your first step? No. I had to make due. I had two shallots and a bottle of champagne. What can I say, it worked! I sauteed the minced shallots with garlic in olive oil very gently. I then added in my arborio rice (allowing the olive oil to coat each piece of rice just enough so the outside edges were translucent). Then I began heating my box of low sodium chicken stock.

I cooked the arborio very low and slow adding a bit of the heated stock as needed to keep the rice moist. After a while I added in some of the champagne, a pinch of salt and some fresh ground black pepper. After about 15-20 minutes I thinly sliced five artichoke hearts (I used canned) and I put five artichoke hearts in the remaining chicken stock. Then I added a small bit of butter to the risotto and I also grated some fresh parmesan into the mix.

Meanwhile, I wanted to try a new side dish for the risotto so I decided to try my hand at Panzanella. I had about a half a loaf of french bread left over from yesterday's dinner and a package of heirloom tomatoes. I used the Panzanella recipe from the Gourmet cookbook and changed things up a bit. I didn't have any cucumber (which I'm not a big fan of anyway) but I did have red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, dried basil, dried oregano and feta. I cut up the heirloom tomatoes (varying sizes and shapes in order to give the salad a different texture), tore up about 5-6 thin slices of the left over bread, tossed them together with the vinegar, a bit of diced red onion and the remaining seasoning and the feta. Wow. That's all I can say. Both the Husband and I were utterly mesmerized by the vinegar and soppy-bread. I guess we really are Italian if we can be put into a total food stupor with day-old bread.

Anyway, back to the risotto. The trick with Risotto is that you do have to taste it as you go along to see whether the rice is the right consistency. Cooking it low and slow really gave it a great silky looking texture. Towards the end I added in a bit more artichoke and a few dashes of lemon juice (nice kick that lemon juice). Once I was happy with the consistency of the rice, I took it off of the heat, added in the artichoke halves which had been simmering in the remaining stock, added a bit more butter and parmesan and let it sit (covered) for two minutes per Jamie's instruction. It did set up nicely! I served the risotto in shallow bowls with a sprig of fresh mint on top and more parmesan (trust me, we keep the parmiggiano-reggiano people in business).

This was one of the best risottos that I've ever made. The artichokes really blended in nicely, the lemon juice gave a nice kick and the champagne (rather than regular white wine) added a nice hint of flavor. Between the risotto and the panzanella its a wonder that we're still awake at this hour.

What is next, you say? Well, I do want to do a week from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" (ala "Julie and Julia") but before we do that I think we may have comfort food week. Last winter I made a really tasty pot pie, mac and cheese is always tops and years ago back in Ithaca I had a really delectable sundried tomato turkey meatloaf (god awful sounding, I know, but it was really good!) I'm going to try and reproduce it! Anyway, that will be next week. For now, I think after this week of good food we deserve to go to Burger King for dinner tomorrow.

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