Tuesday, March 17, 2009

121. Artichokes with Garlic Pimento Vinaigrette (p. 519)

A little while ago, when I blogged about Asparagus with Tarragon Sherry Vinaigrette I said that it was exactly the kind of dish that I'd make if I ever had a fancy dinner party where one would serve a "first course." This recipe* is another contender. Just like the asparagus dish, this artichoke dish is elegant, delicious and can be made in advance.

As elegant as this dish looks on the plate, there's no way to look sophisticated and highfalutin while you're eating it, and when you're done, your plate looks like you've just finished ripping an armadillo apart. But, every now and then it's great to have a little fun with your food and not take yourself so seriously. Come to think of it, a lot of "fancy" foods are pretty messy to eat and require a little bit of disassembly: lobster, oysters, escargots, what else?

To make this dish, I cut the stem and top half-inch off the artichoke. I clipped the pointy tips off the outer leaves with some kitchen shears. I scooped out the choke with a spoon, and rubbed lemon juice on all of the cut edges. Then I boiled the artichokes in some salted water for a little while. When they were done, I transferred them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Finally, I drained them upside-down on a baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel.

While the artichokes drained, I made the vinaigrette. First, with the side of a heavy chef's knife, I mashed some garlic and Kosher salt together into a paste. I whisked this together with some white wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped bottled pimentos and chopped parsley.

To serve, I put an artichoke on a plate and drizzled the vinaigrette over and around the artichoke. That's it. And the taste? I really like artichokes ... always have. They have a very unique flavor that I really can't describe. Kind of lemony, kind of sweet, and maybe a little peppery. The vinaigrette was perfectly suited to this dish. It was substantial, and that pimento gave it a nice sweet flavor. This somewhat heavy vinaigrette wouldn't work on a light salad, but it could also be used on green beans or raw spinach.

The Book intends for this recipe to be made using those big, giant globe artichokes, one per person. I used baby artichokes to make this recipe, and we ate them two at a time. They worked out just fine, but if I had it to do over again, I'd use the big ones. The babies don't have the big nasty choke and the prickly points that the big ones do, but there isn't as much meat on the leaves, and the tiny baby artichoke hearts left me wanting more.

Date Cooked: March 1. 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

*The recipe on epicurious.com has the cook, and not the diner, do all of the heavy lifting in terms of disassembling the artichoke.

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