Zuppa di Carciofi e Topinambur

Artichoke and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

In This, as in other preparations where artichokes are cut or sliced, it is essential that a substantial portion of the artichoke—the tough, inedible part—be trimmed away before cooking. It may seem wasteful, but it is far more wasteful to put good ingredients and precious effort in a dish that becomes unchewable.

Do not use a knife or scissors on the large outer leaves. They must be pulled back and down by hand so that they will automatically snap off at the base where the tough part meets the tender. The inner core of leaves should be truncated with a sharp knife where the dark green color fades away.

Here we have an unusual and happy combination: the keen, earthy taste of artichokes with the sweet, mild taste of topinambur (Jerusalem artichokes). It’s not a soup where you look for crisp, undercooked morsels to crunch. The vegetables should be creamy and all but dissolve in your mouth. Therefore, be sure to give it sufficient cooking time and gentle heat.

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Ingredients

  • 3 medium artichokes
  • ½ lemon
  • 8 to 9 ounces Jerusalem artichokes or sun chokes, about cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion chopped fine
  • 3 cups good homemade broth (beef, chicken, or any light broth)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
  • Crostini (bread squares lightly browned in hot butter)

Method

  1. Detach the stems of the artichokes and pare away each stem’s green outer layer until you reach the whitish core. Slice the core very thin and sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice over the slices.
  2. Snap off the hard outer leaves of the artichokes with your fingers until you are left with a central cone of leaves pale at the base and green only at the tip. Cut off about inches from the top of the cone, taking care to eliminate all the dark green, inedible parts of the leaves. Rub all the cut edges with the half lemon.
  3. Cut the trimmed artichokes into quarters. With a paring knife scrape away the inner choke and small, curled prickly leaves. Slice the quarters lengthwise as thin as you can. Sprinkle a little lemon juice over them.
  4. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut them into the thinnest possible slices.
  5. Put the butter, olive oil, and chopped onion into a soup pot and turn on the heat to medium high. When the onion becomes colored a rich gold, add the sliced artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes, and turn down the heat a bit. Cook, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the broth, turn the heat down to low, and cover the pot. Cook for 2 hours or more over very low heat, until the vegetables become pulpy soft. If more liquid is required during this time, add water not broth. When done, the consistency of the soup should be medium thin, somewhat runny.
  7. Put the egg yolk in a soup tureen or other serving bowl and beat it lightly with a fork. Slowly pour the soup over the egg yolk, stirring all the while. Then mix in the grated cheese and serve with crostini.

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