Alcachofas con Jamón

Artichokes with Jamón

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IN ZARAGOZA THERE IS A SMALL SUBURBAN RESTAURANT OWNED BY A MAN WHO HAS MADE HIS LIFE STUDYING JAMÓN. HE IS A BRILLIANT CORTADOR (SEE PREVIOUS PAGE) WHO JOKINGLY SAYS HE SOLD HIS SOUL TO THE DEVIL TO BE ABLE TO CUT JAMÓN SO WELL. ON ANY GIVEN DAY HE WILL HAVE THREE DIFFERENT JAMONES FROM DIFFERENT REGIONS ON HIS BAR READY FOR SLICING. THIS IS ONE OF THE DISHES HE SERVED ME ONE DAY: BRILLIANTLY SOFT ARTICHOKES IN A DELICATE JAMÓN AND SHERRY-FLAVOURED SAUCE.

Ingredients

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 artichokes
  • 50 ml ( fl oz) olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100 g ( oz) piece of jamón, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a small handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 12 slices of thiny sliced jamón, roughly torn

Method

Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of water to stop the artichokes browning as you peel them. Working one at a time, and using a small sharp knife, slice off most of the stem and the top one-third to half of the artichoke tops. Pull off the tough outer leaves to reveal the soft, pale yellow inner leaves, then peel the stem and slice the artichoke lengthways into quarters. Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the hairy choke. Place in the acidulated water and repeat with the remaining artichokes. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Add the drained artichokes and boil for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain again.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5–6 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Add the garlic, finely chopped jamón and bay leaves and sauté for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute, then increase the heat to high, add the sherry and boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes, or until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Add the cooked artichokes, 400 ml (14 fl oz) warm water and sea salt. Combine gently and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a warm serving dish. Scatter the roughly torn jamón over the artichokes and serve.