Cardoon Risotto

There’s only so much turkey you can eat. But turkey broth? That’s another story. You can never have enough. Domenico was in charge of making it this year, and he made gallons in the biggest-stock-pot-I-ever-saw. I knew I bought it for a good reason.

After turkey noodle soup last night, I knew we were really over the whole turkey thing. But since it’s STILL raining here in Rome, I didn’t really feel like going out to do last minute dinner shopping. Opening the fridge I realized that I still had the bunch of cardoons I had bought in the farmer’s market 10 days ago. That’s the thing about cardoons. They taste delicious, and are gorgeous in the market, but…what a pain to clean and cook. Which is why they were still sitting there, a bit limp and not as sprightly as when I bought them.

I don’t know what I originally thought I’d do with them. My friend Judy had them for lunch in a restaurant today, in Tuscany, where they were parboiled, fried and then cooked in a thick tomato sauce. Yummy I’m sure, but way too much work for me.

If you’ve never had them, cardoons taste a bit like artichokes. In fact, if you see them growing in the garden, that is what they look like. On the counter, they look just like celery. And like celery, they can be stringy and must be cleaned of their fibers before cooking. A pain.

But getting back to the artichoke taste and the gallons of broth. Risotto seemed  the perfect solution. I even had a great bag of arborio rice from Principato di Lucedio that I had brought back from the Salone. If you ever see their rice, buy it. But it will sort of ruin you for  normal rice in the future. The minute you start cooking it, it fills your kitchen with an incredible fragrance that you realize all rice should have, but rarely does.

The risotto turned out perfectly. I’d never made it with cardoons before, and the taste was a bit more ‘green’ tasting than artichokes, and maybe slightly more bitter (in a good way) The turkey broth made it very rich indeed, but you can certainly use chicken or vegetable broth instead.

Cardoon Risotto

Risotto di Cardi
serves four

8 large cardoon stalks
1 small onion
4 Tablespoon of butter
400 grams arborio rice
1 liter of turkey broth
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Carefully clean the cardoons. Break off each stem, and strip them of their outer fibers, as well as any of the green leaves. As you clean them, drop them into acidulated water, so they don’t turn dark (like artichokes)

Place 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Heat gently. Add chopped onion.

Take the cardoons out of water, dry and chop into 1/4 inch size pieces, putting the chopped cardoons into the butter with the onions as you chop them. Giving them a stir to coat. (you don’t want them turning dark) Add some salt and pepper.

Once you’ve got all the cardoons in, add a ladle full of broth. Let them cook for about 20 minutes, until they start to soften. If you need to, add more water.

In the meantime bring the broth to a simmer.

Once the cardoons are soft, let the liquid boil off. Then add rice to vegetables and stir to ‘toast’ the rice, coating it with the juices.

Add the broth, a ladle full at a time, stirring, until rice is cooked. About 15 to 20 minutes.

Just before it is done, add the butter and cheese.

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