Sunday, July 24, 2011
Artichokes Barigoule and Some Men
I adore artichokes. Curiously, most men I know do not. The same men don't like eating quail, or crabs. They say they are 'work'. I don't get it. Where they see work I see fun. Hm. Perhaps the men who don't like them are also men who don't cook? Weigh in if you have thoughts about this.
On the subject of which. Digression: for a month in August my 76-year-old mom has to get up at sparrow fart to...cook my dad breakfast before he goes to work. Really. Why? Because Selina, their housekeeper, whose usual wonderful duty this is, is on holiday. The little table in the kitchen is laid, and he gets fruit - peeled and chopped in a bowl (when his white cat Spook was in the land of the living she would share his papaya or melon, which she loved), tea, toast and...I think oats. I still hate oats (from silent early morning breakfasts at the same table when I was at school!). He sits there in the window seat in his suit, polished shoes, and carefully combed hair, and has breakfast. It's another world. I would have a word with him but I value my head.
Back to artichokes. I was inspired by the picture of Thomas Generazio's beautiful artichokes in Massachusetts.
Here is a recipe where the cook does all the work, so I don't make this very often. It is time consuming, but the effort is rewarded by the creamy, tangy combination of soft artichokes and herby, herb-perfumed sauce. The quantities are guidelines only. Figure on two to three artichoke hearts per person if this is one of many dishes served at long summer lunch (bump the other ingredient volumes accordingly). Or share this amount with one special friend, as a main course with crusty bread and sweet butter.
If you want to be meaty, no harm in adding a few slices of pancetta to this.
10 medium artichokes
1 lemon's juice
1 big sweet carrot, sliced thiny
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
Squeeze of lemon.
Cut the stems of the artichokes to about 1 1/2 inches. Cut off the artichoke tops, then break off three or four rows of leaves from the base. Peel all the green from the artichoke bottoms and stems, and sprinkle each with lemon as you finish trimming it. Place them in cold water acidulated with the juice. Your fingers will become stained from peeling, so consider gloves.
Gently spread the leaves of each artichoke, and use a small spoon or melon baller to remove the choke.
Peel the carrot and the onion, and cut them into thin slices. . Chop three cloves of garlic, keeping the others whole.
To a heavy, non-reactive pan or heat-proof dish, add the onion, carrot and all the garlic to the olive oil. Slowly cook until the onion begins to turn golden, and the carrots caramelize slightly. This adds dimension to the dish, mm hm? Then add the artichokes, stem side up. Add the herbs.
Pour the wine over the lot, and add enough water to barely cover the artichoke bottoms. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, or until the hearts are tender when pierced, then remove the lid and reduce the cooking liquid over high heat to thicken the sauce. Taste - very important. Correct seasoning and add a splash of lemon juice.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I prefer the latter in summer, of course.