Thursday, September 2, 2010
fresh artichokes (and hollandaise)
In my last post I said that I had so much to update on my blog. I am going to have to do it in a series - after starting one comprehensive post tonight, I realized that wine, fresh artichokes, hollandaise sauce, pizza, and chicken marsala can not be shown justice crammed into one tiny little space. So I will start with fresh artichokes - so miraculously tasty.
As far as artichokes are concerned, the first and last time I tasted a fresh artichoke was in a Mediterranean cooking class (mainly Northern Italy) I took two years ago, and I have not forgotten about the uniqueness of a fresh artichoke since (compared to the canned, weird tasting artichokes that are so common in American dishes and antipastos). Julia Child's The Way to Cook gave me a step-by-step lesson in steaming an artichoke. You can steam it, or you can boil it - I did both, one method for each artichoke, and I could not taste the difference. With that said, I would probably go with steaming for health purposes (oh - make sure you salt the water, whichever method you choose). Select a beautiful, squeaky green artichoke. When you get it home, rinse it off and make sure all the grit stuck in between the leaves is rinsed out. Take a heavy knife and cut the top end of the artichoke to remove the pricklies - from there, take scissors and remove each prickly off the top of each leaf. You can rub the exposed ends with a lemon wedge to prevent browning. Cut off the stem to the base of the artichoke, plop in a steamer and steam for ~35-45 minutes, or until the artichoke has lost its vibrant green and turned to a green/gray/brown color. As soon as you whisk up your hollandaise, it is ready to be devoured!!!!
For the hollandaise, I will only impart the amateur cooking method, since I am an amateur, and let's face it - you probably are too. Crack 3 eggs and save only the yolks for the hollandaise. Place the yolks in a metal mixing bowl (or heat resistant mixing bowl of some sort) and set over a sauce pan of boiling water (make your own double-boiler. This is the amateur method, so you don't have scrambled eggs before you get to the buttery eggy almost cheesy-like hollandaise because of your whimpy whisking). Add about 2 tablespoons of butter (set out to room temp) while OFF the heat. The butter will not whisk in right away because it isn't melted - but try to whisk until almost all of the butter is whisked in with the eggs. Add a touch of salt, a few drops of hot sauce, and fresh lemon juice from one lemon (trick: cut the lemon in half and squeeze over your cupped hand to catch the seeds. Let the juice trickle through your fingers or dump from your palm after removing the seeds). You can also add a touch of white pepper - I have had it with and without, and I prefer it WITH the white pepper. Set mixing bowl over the boiling water and continue to whisk while GRADUALLY adding in melted butter - this is called tempering the eggs, adding a little bit of heat at a time, to gradually bring them up to temp for them to start cooking but without OVERcooking which will result in scrambled eggs (yuck). Continue whisking vigourously (hold the bowl with a dish towel or an oven mitt with the other arm to keep it steady) and you will know your eggs have cooked when you can start to see the bottom of the mixing bowl while you whisk. The consistency should be a thick, mayonnaisey consistency and the taste will be divine goodness!
To serve: pour your hollandaise into a cute bowl and serve artichokes on appetizer plates (or one plate to share an artichoke - one artichoke goes a long way). Pluck off leaf by leaf, holding it by the tip, and dip the base into the hollandaise - with your teeth and tongue, drag the artichoke leaf out of your mouth, extracting the fleshy insides. Once you get the inside of the artichoke, you have reached the artichoke heart! Scrape off the fibers with a knife (they will rip up your insides; good food sometimes comes at a price) and once the fibers have been cleaned from the heart of the choke you can cut up the artichoke heart and eat it like a barbarian. Trust me, you will want to.