Saturday, November 29, 2008

The ABCs of Everyday French Cuisine 1: A for artichaut

(Photo courtesy of Franck Chicot
member of the Flickr Fruit and Veg Group)

Artichokes are one of those vegetables I always feel like I should be serving more frequently. Everybody in the family likes them; they're easy to cook (albeit a bit long, but now I have this to help me,) and they're a lot of fun to eat.

Also, my husband does an excellent job of meticulously cutting out the chokes so we can all eat the "bottoms" (les fonds d'artichaut) under the best conditions -- so I figure this is one food item that could help increase his rather slim participation in our everyday cooking.

But, alas, artichokes don't appear on our table that often. And my French-inspired cooking repertoire doesn't include many exciting ways to cook or serve them.

I do have the following observations to make about artichokes/artichauts in France and in our home:

  1. An alarming number of French people, including fruit and vegetable vendors, do not know how to spell artichaut. I find it most annoying to see artichauds for sale. Artichaud even seems to enjoy some popular acceptance, as a Google search for the term turned up an alarming 113,000 references -- enough to send me flying to my Larousse. Ouf! Artichaud isn't listed, but the frequency of this error makes me wonder if it could be a spelling in regional languages.

  2. I have rarely been served artichokes at dinner parties, but when I have, they have played the role of a quick, "I didn't really have a lot of time to cook today," starter and are usually served with melted butter or homemade (somehow French cooks always have time to make that) mayonnaise.

  3. My husband concocts a yummy sauce for artichoke dipping by mixing together homemade vinaigrette with some store-bought (because I don't have time to...) mayonnaise. Try it sometime.

  4. We're lucky here in France to have access to some excellent Italian foodstuffs like Sacla products, and their artichoke hearts sold in jars are quite divine. In fact some of them went into what I just made for lunch:


BEFORE




AFTER

Call it seven-ingredient, Franco-Italian-Blogger improvised inspiration!


18 comments:

Veronica said...

Those Sacla marinated artichokes are good, aren't they? I try to keep a jar in the cupboard for quick meals -- you can use them in pasta sauces, salads, quiches, frittatas ...

With fresh artichokes, I make an easy lemon butter sauce: reduce the juice of a lemon slightly in a small pan, season with salt and pepper, then start whisking in small pieces of butter over a very low heat. As each couple of pieces dissolve, add some more till you have a pale, emulsified sauce a bit like hollandaise -- it only takes a few minutes.

Betty C. said...

Thanks for the sauce idea, Veronica, and also for more ideas for using the artichoke hearts. I've put them in pasta and salads, but for some reason never in quiches. I thought they might be a little oily for that.

Le laquet said...

I love the roasted artichauts too - I made a summer pasta salad with them and anchovy dressing and roasted tomates ... tangy and delicious.

I have another of those French-esque words syltesse ... sounds like a diet yoghurt ;o)

spacedlaw said...

In Italy the artichokes are different from the ones usually sold in france, which are the globe artichokes. In my family we often eate those steamed with a dip sauce made of cream and lemon juice. Very nice.
You should eat them more often; they are supposed to good for your liver and blood.

myfrenchkitchen said...

I love my artichauT too and the nice thing here is that the frozen ones are just as good, and together with Sacla we can't find excuses about not having it on our plates!
Ronell

Veronica said...

spacedlaw: there are 2 types here: the globe artichokes are more of a northern thing, and in the south we have small pointy ones called violets or poivrades, which are similar to Italian ones I think. You can almost eat them whole when they are young, because they have no choke to speak of; just trim the points, take off the toughest outer leaves, halve or quarter, and grill them with olive oil and herbs.

Betty C. said...

myfrenchkitchen -- We can get excellent frozen artichoke hearts here -- I have used them occasionally.

Veronica -- I agree. Here in Aveyron we get the smaller "poivrade" artichokes during certain seasons, but a lot of the globe artichokes. We're definitely "Midi moins le quart" -- sometimes I think "Midi moins vingt-cinq!"

James Walsh said...

I love the plain simple everyday artichoke chilled with a little vinaigrette or hot with hollandaise. The bottom, what they call in France the fond d'artichaut can be used stuffed sauteed or simply part of sauteed vegetable. Artichokes are very popular in Egypt too.

Betty C. said...

James, thanks for reminding me that the "fond" is not the "heart." I couldn't think of the word in English --is "bottom" really the correct term, it doesn't sound very glorious?
Anyway, I'm going to correct my text.

Loulou said...

Artichokes don't make it into our kitchen very often either. I think this is going to have to change!

tut-tut said...

Martha Stewart November mag. has a recipe for an artichoke gratin that sounds delicious.

Elisabeth said...

Artichauts were a staple at my house when I was growing up. We had them as an appetizer about once a week, always with some sort of homemade mayonnaise.

I do not think that I have made them once since I moved to the U.S., over 33 years ago! But I do like them, I certainly do.

Bajo Seasoned Salts said...

Thanks for the recipe. Sounds terrific!

A little recommendation, I found these to be so delicious and useful in my kitchen: http://bajoseasonedsalts.com/

Cheers.

John

Betty C. said...

Yeah, like I never put recipes on my blog, haven't you noticed John?

But that doesn't mean your seasoned salts aren't good...

katiez said...

I've never heard or seen Sacla... but, maybe now that I am further into 'cosmpolitan' France....
I continue to be amazed at the foods I see here.
If only I had a kitchen. Right now I'm one of the 'pan, knife and whisk. French!

Ann @ Cooking the Books said...

Mmmm! I love those jarred artichokes! I roast them with a can of chickpeas, some mushrooms, tomato sauce and cumin for a quick supper.

Thanks for your suggestions! Yum!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Betty, I always want mayonnaise with my artichokes, and mayonnaise is really fast and easy to make. Use a whisk and make it by hand or use a stick blender... Vinaigrette is good too but not the same.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

That looks incredible!