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Adventure #19 to Spain - Artichoke Rice Cakes with Melting Manchego

Adventure #19 to Spain - Artichoke Rice Cakes with Melting Manchego

12th May 2022

The adventure: I love Spanish cuisine. I mean I love ALL Hispanic cuisine, but I have a soft place in my heart for food from Spain. I spent a semester in Spain during college, and found everything I ate there delightful. When I came across an artichoke rice cake with Manchego recipe, I just had to try it. I love cheese. Artichoke dip is the bomb and rice is just fun. How could this go wrong?

Pre-adventure Jitters: My idea of preparing an artichoke heart involves a can opener. I’ve never bought an artichoke, cut an artichoke, or prepared an artichoke in any way. I find them daunting. I was tempted to do the same with this recipe rather than prepping my artichoke from scratch, but I call them adventures for a reason. Soooo…armed with the recipe from "Around the World in 450 Recipes" by Sarah Ainley, and my cell phone in case I need a quick tutorial, the adventure begins.

The Adventure: The good news about doing so many of these recipes, is my basic ingredient stash is growing to a rather healthy size. All I need is parmesan, manchego, and the artichoke. Well, those and the risotto rice. Risotto is a short chubby rice. I already have a short chubby rice that I bought for one of the Latin recipes and I’m not buying another bag. Sooo I’m subbing my chubby rice and I’ll speak some Italian to it to make it feel like risotto. And before you’re impressed that I speak Italian, I don’t. I know maybe 2 words aside from cheeses and pastas, but it’s the thought that counts, right? The cheese I can get from The Cheese House, and the artichoke from the standard grocery store. Easy peasy this go round. I feel like I earned this little ingredient break.

I’m a becoming a “get the easy items out of the way first” kind of chef. Chop my onions, measure out the other ingredients, and then I stare down the artichoke. Sigh. What was I thinking. I should have just faked it. I read the recipe directions…”cut off the stem, the top, the leaves, cut out the choke”. I remove the stem, the top, most of the leaves…but I have no idea what a choke is.

Before I go any further, I look up a tutorial to watch. Annndddd the stem shouldn’t have been cut off. It needs peeled down, but the center is considered part of the heart. Well, shit. I dig the stem out of my produce waste…cause we’re applying a 500 second rule…and peel the stem. The tutorial helps trim it further down and so I can identify the choke. It says to use a melon baller to scoop out the choke. I don’t have a melon baller. I try a spoon, and it’s a total disaster. Soooo I clutch my paring knife at the blade end (mhm…that’s how you lose a digit) and scrape…and scrape…and scrape. By the time I get all the fuzz remnants off the heart, there’s very little heart left. Sigh. This is turning out to be a nightmare. It’s too late to go back now, so I forge ahead.

I sauté, boil as required, and slowly stir my rice…for 20 minutes. If you know anything about me, you’ll be impressed and in awe that I actually stirred constantly for 20 minutes. That crap never happens. I’m typically a “walk away and come back to it burned” kinda gal. So I truly get the gold star on this one. I add the parm and taste. Oh. My. God. The rice is delicious. I don’t even need to go any further. I could just sit down, hug the bowl, and demolish it completely. I eat another spoonful and another, then quickly put it in the fridge before I lose all control.

Once my rice is suitably chilled (the next evening, truth be told), I scoop out my first spoonful. Flatten, stuff in cheese, and try to shape back to a circle. Annnddd it doesn’t work. The rice isn’t sticking back together. Sigh. I apply the half ass cook law #549, squish the bejeebers out of it hoping it works…and it does! The heat from my hand warms the rice up just enough that it sticks. They’re a piece of cake once I get the hang of it. I form just 6 to start. They need eaten right away, and I can’t see myself eating more than 6 in one sitting. The remaining rice I stick back in the fridge.

The dusting of cornmeal is issue free and I heat up my oil. I’m supposed to fry for 4-5 minutes. It doesn’t mention a flip, soooo is that 4 to 5 per side? Total? Oy. I have no choice but to wing it. It takes about 3-1/2 to get the first side brown, I flip and fry side #2. Everything goes smoothly, except for the very first one I had issues forming. It’s a little crumbly. I pull them out of the pan and drain as required. They smell and look fantastic. I’m super excited as I plate them.

I pick up my plate and quickly turn to the right to grab my silverware annnddd one of them skids across the plate and hits the floor, exploding little rice grains everywhere. In my horror, I gasp, jerking the plate in the process, and A SECOND ONE goes flying. Their crispy fry makes them like little hockey pucks! As Cleo, my pup, devours the rice bits from the first one, I manage to grab the second one (still mostly intact) off the floor and pop it in my mouth. Mhm…I have no shame.

The rice cakes are delicious! I would definitely make this recipe again, but I’ve made a note in my book that they fly off the plate…literally. I mark this one as a huge win. On to the next adventure!

The Recipe - Artichoke Rice Cakes with Melting Manchego

Ingredients

  • 1 globe artichoke
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup risotto rice
  • scant 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 oz Manchego cheese, very finely diced
  • 3-4 TBSP fine cornmeal
  • olive oil for frying
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • flat leaf parsley, to garnish

Instructions

  • Remove the stalk, leaves, and choke to leave just the heart of the artichoke. Chop the heart finely.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the chopped artichoke heart, onion, and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Keeping the heat fairly high, gradually add the stock, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. This should take about 20 minutes. Season well, then stir in the Parmesan. Transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
  • Spoon about 1 TBSP of the mixture in to the palm of one hand, flatten slightly, and place a few pieces of diced cheese in the center. Shape the rice around the cheese to make a small ball. Flatten slightly then roll in the cornmeal, shaking off any excess. Repeat with the remaining,= mixture to make about 12 cakes.
  • Shallow fry in hot olive oil for 4-5 minutes until the rice cakes are crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot, garnished with flat leaf parsley.