In the States artichokes are usually in season around springtime, and here in central Europe you can find them in the spring and autumn. After having lunch today with Jason, I saw a large bushel of artichokes for 2€ each, across the street at a small farmer’s market/store where you can find the farmer herself selling everything from her farm along with bottles of local wine from the producers in our village.
I’ve been thinking about trying artichokes for quite some. For my birthday last year, Jason bought me several French cookbooks. I found them intimidating, but fascinating. They included The French Laundry by Thomas Keller, Larousse Gastronomique, The Complete Robuchon by Joël Robuchon, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way to Cook by Julia Child.
The French Laundry is filled with magnificent recipes and images of Thomas Keller, his restaurant and his chefs working in his kitchen. Thomas Keller has won many awards including the James Beard Foundation award and the Best California Chef in 1996, and was named the Best Chef in America in 1997. He is the only American chef to receive simultaneous three star Michelin ratings in two of his restaurants.
Joël Robuchon is legendary, a masterful and innovative chef. In 1989 he was named “Chef of the Century” by the guide Gault Millau and has received 28 Michelin Guide stars – the most of any chef in the world.
Larousse Gastronomique is the World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. You will find the majority of this book is about French cuisine and contains recipes for French dishes and cooking techniques. The first edition came out in 1938 and has been in updated yearlt, and in print continuously ever since.
Can you see why I was so intimidated? I’ve cooked several recipes from these books, I love them and I’m learning a lot, but there is so much information, so many techniques to learn. I want to learn the right way to do things, from those who do it best. This was one of the reason I wanted to start a blog, to document my progress as I learn from these books. So today, with the artichokes in my bike basket, I came home and picked up Larousse Gastronomique. I will be making casseroled artichokes. It is recommended that you use small Italian or violet de Provence (a purple artichoke from Provence, France) but I’m sure any artichoke will do.
Some people may find these a little difficult to prep and eat. You may be wondering, what part are you suppose to eat and how do you eat it? First, prepping these artichokes is just as easy as they are to eat. First, you prepare the artichokes by trimming the stalk, snipping the thorns and leaves off to two-thirds of their length, and slicing an inch of the top off revealing the layers. So far so good? Great! Let’s move on… Boil them in a large pot with 2 halved lemons for 20 minutes, stuff with the bread crumb mixture, and bake according to the recipe. After baking, you can dig in immediately; simply pull a leaf off, scraping the lower-inside bit at the base of the leaf between your teeth, and enjoy. Do not pop the whole leaf in your mouth. Set an empty bowl on the table to collect the eaten leaves. You may be thinking (especially if this was your first time preparing these) the artichokes seem like a lot of work, but I promise you, the artichoke saves the best for last; as you get closer to the center, the more edible the leaves become, until you have finally reached the gem. The heart of the artichoke. The most delicious part!
From Larousse Gastronomique
2 lemons, sliced in half
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 small jar of capers, roughly chopped (about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on how much you like them)
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
I prepared the artichokes by cutting the stalk, snipping the thorns and leaves to two-thirds of their length, and slicing an inch of the top off where you can see the layers throughout the artichoke.
Slice two lemons in half and place in the a pot and blanche the artichokes in boiling water. Drain, remove the center leaves, and the choke. Combine breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, capers, fresh parsley, sea salt and pepper and fill the artichokes. Arrange the artichokes close together in a casserole, moisten with a generous quantity of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F, uncovered, for about 50 minutes, basting from time to time. Arrange the artichokes on a dish and pour the cooking juices over them. Serve immediately.