It’s April! Springtime has definitely arrived and peak season California artichokes can be found in all the markets.
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed artichokes braised in tomato sauce. I started thinking of other ways to prepare artichokes and became inspired by the idea of a soup along the lines of that made and served at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero, California. A quick trip to the market and I was back home with five large globes.
Before working on the artichokes, a quick broth can be started by simmering collagen rich chicken wings with aromatic vegetables – onion, carrot, garlic and celery. After about an hour the broth can be strained and reserved for use in the soup. In a pinch, a good quality, store bought broth (unsalted) can be pressed into service.
It’s amazing how much artichoke is discarded when only the hearts and stems are harvested. I set to work on the large thistles until I had the hearts and stems trimmed and soaking in a pot with water and lemon juice. Jacques Pepin has a video on “turning” artichokes that make it look quicker and easier than the artichoke trimming process taking place in my kitchen.
The artichokes are simmered for about 40 minutes, or until the hearts are tender and can be pierced easily with a knife. Then, the artichokes and cooking liquid are set aside to cool before proceeding with processing.
In a food processor, puree the artichokes with a bit of cooking liquid. Then, working and adjusting a little at a time, add broth and cooking liquid until the consistency and texture are right. Finally, a little cream and a pinch of saffron, steeped in hot water, are added before moving the mixture from the food processor to a large saucepan over low heat.
At first, the soup will taste bland since there is no salt in the broth and only a small amount added to the artichokes as these were cooking. Add salt and ground pepper a little at a time, letting the soup simmer for a few minutes before tasting and adding additional seasoning as needed. I like to sneak up on the right amount and go through the process of seasoning and tasting several times until the soup is just right — neither under nor over seasoned.
Acid is needed to brighten the flavor of the soup. The juice one-half lemon or a scant teaspoon of vinegar adds this dimension.
The soup is finished with a garnish of crisp, sauteed prosciutto for a salty crunch, and a few snips of chive for color. Flavor is augmented by a drizzle of good olive oil and a few drops of Tabasco, or the hot sauce of your choosing. Serves two generous portions.
- 5 large globe artichokes
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup packaged unsalted, or homemade (recipe follows) chicken broth
- 1/2 cup regular cream
- 1 pinch of saffron steeped in hot water.
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 slices prosciutto, cut into strips and sautéed until crispy.
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Hot sauce like Tabasco.
- 1 teaspoon chopped chive
- Trim the artichokes so all that remains are the hearts and stems. As each artichoke is trimmed, place in a pot filled with water to cover and the juice of one lemon.
- When all the artichokes are trimmed turned the burner so the artichokes in the pot come to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, add a generous pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
- Continue cooking the artichokes for 40 minutes, or until the hearts and stems are tender when tested with a knifepoint. Set the pot aside to let the artichokes and the cooking liquid cool.
- Using a slotted spoon or long handled strainer, remove the artichoke hearts and stems from the cooking liquid and place in the bowl of a food processor. (Alternatively, a blender can be used to process smaller batches.) Reserved the liquid used to cook the artichokes.
- Add 1/2 cup of chicken to the processor and pulse until the artichoke pieces are chopped and beginning to puree. Add 1/2 of the artichoke cooking liquid and continue to puree in the processor. Check if the consistency is to your liking adding broth and cooking liquid as necessary to get the preferred consistency and texture. Add the cream and saffron and give the mixture another quick turn in the processor.
- Place the pureed mixture in a large sauce pan and add salt and pepper a little at a time tasting and adding more until the puree is seasoned to your liking. Add either lemon juice of vinegar to the mixture to brighten the flavor.
- To serve, ladle the puree in a soup bowl. Add crisp prosciutto, a drizzle of olive oil, drops of hot sauce and chopped chives
Quick Chicken Broth
- 8 chicken wings
- 1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion cut in large pieces
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and lightly crushed
- 2 stalks of celery cut in 4” pieces
- 2 medium carrots cut in 4” pieces
- 1 star anise
Place all ingredients in a large stockpot with water to cover. Bring to a boil then simmer for one hour. Strain the broth and return to the stovetop to keep warm. Unused broth can be frozen.