Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Salad of Globe Artichokes with Garden Herbs and Gazpacho

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:

Pretty, huh?

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.

(Dudes, that's the mess from just ONE artichoke.
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
Bogle chardonnay
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


Reebs said...

Thanks for the cleaned artichoke pics, they were craptastic. Heh heh. Craptastic.

Anonymous said...

What? You couldn't do what Chef Lee does and buy them in your regular grocery store and fuck them up with something sacred like bacon?

Damn, that was a lot of waste for so little return. The finished dish looked awesome, though.

Anonymous said...

This looks nice, but like you, artichokes are metallic to me, as well. Must be a tastebud thing. BTW, still trying to recover from yesterday's FL@H terror alert! :)

Natty said...

I didn't like artichokes for a long time either. Most of what I had were either the steamed hearts (which, even now, is my least favorite part) or canned or bottled, pickled or in oil. Yuck, no thanks. Then I started steaming my own and eating the leaves dipped in homemade mayonnaise. Hot damn. I am a convert. They're in my "top three vegetables" below avocados and asparagus. It's all about the leave for me, so I'm shedding a single digital tear for the discarded leaves...

Anonymous said...

I'm totally embarrassed to admit that after reading yesterday's post, I picked up the phone to call the restaurant and had to hang up on the first ring when I FINALLY got the joke. Whew.

I'm with you on artichokes. I don't like them. But all those vegetables look really great together. Looks like spring is finally here!

Anonymous said...

While this dish looks lovely, and I appreciate that you sucked it up and used a primary ingredient that you don't love, I don't think it makes up for the moment of gut-wrenching fear you put us through yesterday. I felt as if I were Charlie Brown arriving at school one morning, being told that the pretty red-headed girl had transferred away never to be seen again. A near tragedy. But at least you now have a barometer of how much we care.

Jo said...

I love artichokes, but gosh darn it, they are labor intensive.

Oh by the way your photos are flipped. Lovely after artychoky broth, then pre broth with floating leek package.

Deborah said...

I like artichokes too, but really they are a lot of work for a little heart.

emmaAmethyst said...

If you'd done this just a few days earlier, you could have added Scottsdale Community College to the Cease & Desist order -- impugning their trusty mascot like that!

I'm with Natty -- I learned to boil/steam artichokes whole in just about a half inch of water, maybe with a little garlic, rosemary &/or olive oil. Then scrape the leaves & eat the heart with lightly lemoned mayonnaise. Mmmmmm.

michael, claudia and sierra said...

that right there is a whole lotta cookin going on. yowza. now, i love artichokes. love em to death. but that just seems labor intensive to the max for a gussied up salady/veggie thing.

btw - yesterday's post was EXCELLENT. very well done. as usual.

amber said...

really? not an artichoke lover? oh, that is just sad :(

the best one i've ever had is the steamed artichoke sitting in a pool of melted butter and parmesan from Longhi's on Maui.

but, i'm totally with you on the cilantro thing. it just tastes like dishsoap to me. blah!

Anonymous said...

Artichokes suck. But you do not. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol,
Not that I'm grown up or anything close to that, but I grew up in Carmel California, the artichoke capitol of the western world. I have always loved the 'choke', especially presented in a simple straightforward manner. Steamed over a pot of bubbling H2o with 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar added per pint of water is heaven enough. The acid brings out the sweet underlying subtleness of this thistle gone mad. Bravo on you for Holly Williams, as I too enjoy her edgy smokiness with a snifter of very old Armagnac.

Alexia said...

yes, as pastrymann mentioned the vinegar is just about essential in steaming chokes :)
I grew up on them steamed and dipped in a dressing made with;
equal parts plain yogurt and homemade mayonaise, red wine vinegar, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, dill and lemon juice. yum

Babeth said...

Great recipe! And thanks for the how-to trim an artichoke in pictures.

Anonymous said...

Instead of vinegar, you can use about a teaspoon of liquid crab boil when you steam them if you want a stronger taste.

Stuffed artichokes are a popular New Orleans appetizer: After they're steamed, stuff the leaves and heart with a combo of bread crumbs, mozzarella, green onions and olive oil and bake for half an hour.

Anonymous said...

Lovely barigoule! Kudos!

A warning. I did the striped bass thing not long ago, and you should know about a couple of things in advance:

1) The ravioli are pretty teeny compared to a sane-sized piece of bass, so you may want to make extra (or big ravioli).

2) The vinaigrette is very intense, so don't just dump it on there or you won't taste anything else.

Incidentally, if you are only using the hearts of the artichokes, you can often buy slightly old, getting-yellow artichokes for half price. If you squeeze them, you can feel whether there is a firm heart or it's gone hollow and useless. If the heart is firm, the color doesn't matter -- you could probably make up some proverb about that, if you were so inclined.

Sue said...

Great blog, great post. I did a sidebar review of your blog on mine. It will be up for a few days.

Thanks for the wonderful writing.

Carol Blymire said...

All: thanks for your comments, and the ardent defense of artichokes. Still, I know you mean well, but I've had them steamed, and I still didn't like them. I think I'm genetically challenged is all.

Jakeymon said...

I love that bouquet garni. It looks lovely.

You are completely correct on artichokes. There are much better butter or hollandaise or even eggplant caviar delivery devices out there.