Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Artichoke with lemon marrow sauce

Artichokes are a major comfort food for me. I'm a native Californian and when I was little we used to drive up the 101 to visit my great aunt and uncle up in the Monterey area, driving through the artichoke growing region of the central coast. And every spring when artichokes came into season, and relatively cheap (since they were local) my mom and I would go nuts and have artichokes with dinner a couple times a week. The smell, the texture, the flavor, the rich creamy heart lurking under the thistle; artichokes are just amazing to me in every way. Then I went away to college and realized that not everyone grew up with this beautiful culinary thistle! If this is you, I'm here to hold your hand and introduce you to an amazing new vegetable!

For this recipe I branched out a little bit and made a bone marrow sauce based on the traditional flavors of gremolata. If you have some marrow bone handy, it's an interesting treat. But for an easier option you can never go wrong with good ol' mayo or clarified butter.

How to steam an artichoke

Beware! There are thorns at the ends of the individual leaves. If you're feeding children, you may want to use a sharp knife or scissors to trim off the leaf tips. Grown adults should be able to navigate the thorns, but if you're new to artichokes, stay sharp so they don't get you!

First, use a sharp knife to cut the stem off flush with the bottom-most leaves. Try to make the cut flat and perpendicular to the stem, so the artichoke sits on a flat base. Fill a large saucepan with 1-2" of water, and bring to a simmer. Put the artichokes in the pan, stem end down. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove with tongs and allow to cool.

Eat the artichoke by pulling off each leaf individually, dipping it in your sauce of choice, and then scraping the meat off the fleshy bottom 1/3 of the leaf with your teeth. As you get to the inner leaves you can bite the fleshy part clean off. When you get to the thinnest inner leaves, you'll need to scrape or cut out the thistle choke to get to the "heart" of the artichoke. Be sure to remove all of the thistle, it is sharp. Slice the heart into small chunks, dip and eat. The heart is the very best part! The California Artichoke Advisory Board has a nice graphic on the basics.

Lemon Marrow Sauce

serves 2

2 marrow bones, about 3" long
1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Roast the marrow bones in a small oven-safe dish for 20-30 minutes, until they just start to brown. While the bones are roasting, use a citrus zester to remove the very top outside layer of the lemon (don't get into the white pith). When the bones are done, scoop out the soft inner marrow, and chop into fine chunks. This will get fat all over your cutting board, don't worry about that. Scoop up the marrow into a serving dish, and sprinkle the lemon zest, parsley and salt over the fat covered part of your cutting board. Mince it all together so that the vegetables soak up some of that luscious marrow fat. Add the lemon-parsley mixture to the marrow. Juice your lemon, and whisk the lemon juice in with the rest of the ingredients. Serve and enjoy.

(As for the remaining bone, you can either use it as a garnish as I did in the photo, or just throw it in the freezer for the next time you make stock.)

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