The Latest from Intro
November 10, 2015
Risotto is so comforting, yet elegant at the same time. It is no surprise that such a dish appears on Chef Stephen Gillanders' a la carte menu which is designed to be just that: comforting yet elegant. His Baby Artichoke Risotto with Meyer Lemon & Fall Herbs is outstanding. What is surprising is that his particular take on risotto strays quite far from what is typically expected of a traditional risotto dish. Contrary to most risottos, this one is much lighter. Rather than using high-starch rice varieties such as Arborio or Carnaroli, Chef Gillanders uses short grain Nishiki Japanese sushi rice. Risotto gets its creamy texture from the starches released from the cooked rice. The Nishiki's texture and composition offers a lighter starchiness while maintaining the creamy texture so signature of any risotto dish. Another unique difference is that rather than cooking the rice with a chicken stock, Chef Gillanders uses an herbal tea broth infusion consisting of rosemary, thyme and meyer lemon zest which add great aromatics to each grain of rice. For Chef Gillanders this dish combines two of the things he fell in love with in Italy: risotto and artichokes. During his travels however he could almost never find a restaurant that served both of them in the same dish. Risotto is very much a northern Italian dish while the best artichokes are always found in the Rome and Sicily. With the Baby Artichoke Risotto he has brought together the best of Northern and Southern Italy. Baby artichokes are one of those vegetables that are a bit misunderstood. Despite their name, baby artichokes aren't immature globe artichokes. In fact they are fully mature but just smaller in size. Because Baby artichokes grow on the lower part of the stalk, the larger artichoke shields them from the sun, which effectively stunts their growth. When done right, risotto is rich without being heavy. The Meyer lemon zest and juice provides the perfect tang against the rich earthly flavors from the baby artichoke hearts. It accentuates the al dente, herb infused risotto’s natural creaminess and adds complexity to the dish. Finished with Italian parsley, sprinkled over with chili flakes and christened with a lovely blanket of Parmesan, what more could you want from a risotto?