Well, well, well.... yesterday was fun, wasn't it? You guys were such good sports about it that I decided I'd better get a real, honest-to-craptastic food post up here lickety-split. Well, this dish really wasn't craptastic. It was sort of, um, boring. I blame myself and my utter non-sewingos..... I mean, non-caringness for artichokes. But let's not put the cart before the horse, as they say. Shall we begin? Let's shall.
It all started with me checking my trusty planning system (some nerdly spreadsheets and food-stained legal pads full of notes) and realizing that there are two dishes that use the Artichokes Barigoule, so I figured I'd better do them back-to-back and make all those dang artichokes at once. However, I also realized that my tasting crew would be cut in half due to various spring break and other travel-related absences. Thus, with my nationally recognized math prowess, I calculated that I could make one batch of Artichokes Barigoule and split them between the two dishes.... as long as I remembered to halve the ingredients of both dishes to accommodate this change. I took a Post-It note and wrote "HALF!!!" on it and plonked it on both pages of the book to remind me. My head hurts just remembering all this. Yipes.
I must confess that even though I think artichokes are lovely (and I don't hate them like I hate cilantro or soft-shell crabs) I have to say that I'm not really a big fan of the 'choke. I don't like them when they're roasted. I don't really enjoy artichoke hearts. I don't even like them with with spinach, cream and cheese in some sort of "dip"-type fashion. I do not plan to start an artichoke fan club. I will not chant "Artichokes '08!" at any political rallies. I guess I just haven't ever had a dish in which they were done really well, or that I thought to myself after eating them, "man, I gotta have me some more of them there artichokes!" So me and artichokes? Not really sittin' in a tree, if you will. Eating them, for me, tastes like what I can only imagine licking a metal sliding board must taste like.
But, I thought, if anything can get me to like artichokes, surely it will be a dish from The French Laundry Cookbook. So, when I saw fresh artichokes at the market, I knew it was time to stop procrastinating on this dish and just get it done. It's all about trying new things, right? The first step was making a batch of Artichokes Barigoule (translation: stewed artichokes) which I'd split between this dish and the Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Artichoke Ravioli and Barigoule Vinaigrette (which I'll post about in a few days).
Here we go:
Now, I know how to peel an artichoke, but I checked the book to make sure there wasn't a special way I needed to do it. I read and re-read the instructions and realized that if the artichokes were fresh, as these were, that the leaves woud tear off right where they needed to, and we'd be good. Thankfully, I was right.
So, I peeled the suckers right down to the softer, yellowy leaves, and then cut off the stems, peeled the base, and cut 2/3 off the top, so that all I was left with was the heart. I also scraped the hell out of the insides to get all that fuzzy shit out. That took longer than I thought it would because these guys were more fuzzy than I ever recall an artichoke being.
Multiply that by six and then tell me how pretty I am.)
As each of the artichokes were prepped, I squeezed each with a little fresh lemon juice. When all six were done, I submerged them in a pot of water, wine, vegetable stock, and olive oil. Then, in a separate pot, I heated some more olive oil, then progressively cooked some carrots , fennel, onions, shallots and garlic.
I removed the artichokes from the liquid they'd been sitting in and plopped them (stem side up) over the vegetables. I sprinkled them with a little kosher salt, covered the pot, and let them cook on medium heat for about 10-12 minutes. After that, I poured the liquid from pot #1 onto them, and added a bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaves all tied up in some leek leaves) and simmered them for 25 minutes.
After they'd cooked, I removed the bouquet garni and transfered the artichokes and their liquid to a separate pot so everything could cool to room temperature. When they had sufficiently cooled, I removed three of them to complete the salad:
While the artichokes were cooling, I prepped the rest of the salad ingredients. I'll spare you every single play-by-play because it was laborious, and you guys are smart, funny, and attractive enough to know how to do most of these things -- so below is a photo of the salad ingredients' mise en place, as it were:
Clockwise from the top: blanched haricots verts (the store was out of wax beans, so I subbed in more haricots verts) and carrot batons; glazed red pearl onions; glazed white pearl onions; balsamic glaze; artichokes barigoule, sliced; eggplant caviar; herb salad (parsley, chervil, chive tips, tarragon with a wee bit of olive oil); and, roasted and diced red and yellow bell peppers there in the center.
I assembled the salad the best way I could and sprinkled it with grey salt as a finishing touch. You'll notice in the title of this dish, there is mention of Gazpacho. In the recipe, it is listed as optional, so I decided not to make it. In the past year, I've developed an allergy to peppers (it sucks on soooooo many levels), and I knew I was tempting fate enough to eat the tiny bits of roasted pepper in this dish -- I didn't want to overdo it and end up in anaphylactic shock.
Here's the final plating:
It's pretty, isn't it? Honestly, it wasn't bad at all. The flavors were fresh and clean, and I didn't hate it. Still, it didn't win me over to the pro-artichoke side, like the "Oysters and Pearls" dish at Per Se turned me into an oyster lover. I actually loved this dish more for the eggplant caviar than anything else. I forgot how much I love that stuff -- and I was thrilled to have a little bit left over so I could spread it on my toast the next morning. But the artichokes? Blech. Still not loving them.
If you're an artichoke lovah, you'll probably like this dish, because they taste okay with this preparation. My tasters liked it, but again, it wasn't something that any of us were bouncing all over the dining room like Daffy Duck woo-hoo-woo-hoo-ing about.
Up Next: Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Artichoke Ravioli and Barigoule Vinaigrette
Produce from Whole Foods
Benissimo balsamic vinegar
Antica Italia olive oil
Music to Cook By: Holly Williams; The Ones We Never Knew. My friend, Claudia, turned me on to Holly (whose has quite the family lineage) a few months ago during a long, wine-fueled phone conversation in which we traded music back and forth online, and she sent me a few of Holly's tunes, after which I went to iTunes and downloaded some of her stuff. This album is raw and good and it's something I'd like to listen to with the lights low, a glass of scotch in hand, and no other distractions to take away from her lyrics and gorgeous, honest vocals. In fact, a few times I found myself stopping what I was doing in the kitchen and just listening to her sing. She's kind of a singer-songwriter/Nashville version of Lizz Wright.
Read my previous post: Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crèpinette de Byaldi with Pan Jus