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Cardoon Risotto

(recipe, Deborah Madison)


I use water in this risotto because the flavor of the cardoon is so subtle that a chicken stock, or even a vegetable stock, would overwhelm it.


    1. 2 to 3 lb. cardoons
    2. Juice of 1 large lemon
    3. 2 Tbsp. flour
    4. Sea salt
    1. 3 Tbsp. butter
    2. ½ cup finely diced onion
    3. 1 cup Arborio rice
    4. ½ cup white wine
    5. Good-quality Parmesan cheese, for grating
    6. Freshly ground pepper
    7. Finely minced thyme, chervil, or parsley (optional)


    1. Trim the thorns off the cardoon stalks and peel them with a paring knife. Cut them into smaller pieces and drop them into a bowl of water acidulated with the lemon juice.
    2. Bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Whisk in the flour and a few teaspoons of salt, then add the cardoons and simmer until they’re tender, anywhere from 10 minutes to a good half-hour. (The flour helps keep the cardoons from discoloring.)
    3. Purée 2 cups of the cooked cardoons with 2 cups of the cooking water until smooth and free of fibers. Measure and bring the quantity to 4½ cups, adding more cooking water as needed. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to a near-boil, holding it over a low heat.
    4. Dice the remaining cardoons into small pieces — enough to fill 1 cup or more — and set aside.
    5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a braising pan about 3 inches deep. Add the onion, stir it around in the butter, and cook over medium heat until the onion is partially softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and give it a stir to coat it well with the butter. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has been absorbed, then add the chopped cardoons and 2 cups of the hot cardoon purée.
    6. Stirring frequently, but not constantly, allow the liquid to bubble just above a simmer until it has been absorbed, then begin adding more liquid by the cup, again stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.
    7. As you approach the end of the purée, taste the rice to make sure it’s done but still retains some bite at the center of each grain; continue cooking, adding more liquid incrementally, until the rice reaches this al dente point. Stir in the final tablespoon of butter.
    8. To serve, portion out the risotto, then grate the cheese over the top of each portion and add plenty of freshly ground pepper. If you wish, add some finely chopped thyme, chervil, or parsley as well.