Artichoke and Spring Vegetable Gratin

Printemps 2010
201002029.jpg
food and drink

BY: Jennifer McLagan

This combination of spring vegetables makes a great accompaniment to roast meat or baked fish and is also hearty enough to serve as a vegetable main course. If serving to vegetarians, replace the chicken stock with a vegetable stock.

12 pickling onions
6 garlic cloves
12 small or 6 large prepared artichokes (see Preparation below)
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
12 baby fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
3 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch (1-cm) diagonal slices
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large sage sprig
1½ cups (375 mL) homemade or low-salt chicken stock
½ cup (125 mL) coarse fresh bread crumbs
½ cup (125 mL) finely grated aged sheep’s milk cheese (kefalotyri)
¼ cup (50 mL) shredded fresh sage leaves

1. In a small saucepan of boiling water, blanch the onions and garlic for 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Peel the onions and garlic and set aside. Drain the artichokes, pat dry and cut the small artichokes in half or the large artichokes into 6, lengthwise.

2, In a frying pan with a lid, heat the oil and butter on medium-high heat, add the onions, artichokes, potatoes and carrots, and season well with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until lightly golden; add the garlic and sage sprig. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring to deglaze the pan.

3. Lower the heat so the liquid simmers, cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are just tender. Uncover and boil gently for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.

4. Preheat the broiler and mix together the bread crumbs, cheese and sage.

5. Transfer the vegetables to warm gratin dish, sprinkle with crumbs, cheese and sage mixture and broil until golden. Serve immediately.

PREPARATION

There is a saying that with artichokes you discard more than you eat, and it is true that you must be ruthless in their preparation unless eating them simply boiled. Begin by bending back the leaves and snapping them off. At first the whole leaf will snap off, and then as you continue working around the artichoke the leaves grow more tender, so less and less of each leaf will break off until you reach the inner, pale green leaves which will no longer snap but just tear. Next, cut off the top third of the artichoke and discard, and trim the stem. Using a small knife, peel the stem and the base of the artichoke, removing all traces of dark green. Now open up the centre of the artichoke. Purple-tipped leaves indicate the artichoke has a hairy inedible choke. Pull out these purple leaves and with a small spoon or melon baller, scrape away the choke. Rub the artichoke with a cut lemon and drop into a bowl of acidulated water (2 tbsp/25 mL lemon juice to 4 cups/1 L water) to minimize the discolouration, until ready to use.

Tips

• Always choose plump artichokes with tightly closed leaves that are heavy for their size. If they have a stem it should be firm.

• Squeeze the artichoke in your hand. A fresh one will squeak and feel springy.

• Cook your artichokes as soon as possible after buying them. If necessary you can store them for a couple of days, wrapped in wet paper towel, in the refrigerator.

• There are two types of globe artichokes available; large mature artichokes that can weigh up to 1 lb (500 g) or more, and smaller immature buds. These lateral buds grow lower down the stalk and are removed so the primary bud can develop. Whether small or large, artichokes are cleaned in the same way, however the smaller ones often have little or no choke and can be
eaten whole.

• Artichokes contain cynarin, a chemical that causes anything you eat after them to taste sweet and makes matching wine to artichoke dishes tricky.

Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as a main course

What to Serve

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