These two-bite finger-food treats make great party fare for an anniversary or other very special occasion. The artichoke heart, filled with homemade pâté, is resting on five unattached artichoke leaves that create the illusion of a flower and make it easy to pick up. Artichoke Flowers was one of the favorite appetizers I taught when l ran the Cordon Rose Cooking School, perhaps because it was both decorative and delicious. Each bite provides a rush of flavor: the surprise of a creamy pâté center with underbite of vegetable and the deeply earthy flavor and artfully irregular shape of the truffle.
|OPTIONAL: fresh or jarred black truffle* or
|OPTIONAL: vegetable oil||•||•|
|goose fat or unsalted butter|
|duck or chicken livers†||•|
|cooked ham, diced|
|black pepper, freshly ground||a few grindings||•||•|
*Jarred black truffles, while not as wonderful as fresh, can be quite delicious. If purchasing jarred black truffles, however, bring along a magnifying glass (I’m not kidding). If the words tuber aestivum (or tartufo estivo) are on the label, do not buy them; they are summer truffles and their interiors will be the color of the pâté. They are also much milder and less interesting in flavor.
†When I make duck, I freeze the duck liver to have for this preparation. Wrap airtight in plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand) and place in heavy-duty freezer bags with the air pressed out. I find they freeze well for several months.
In a large saucepan, place the artichokes and add enough boiling water to cover them by about
When cool enough to handle, remove the tough outer leaves. Cut off the stems to form flat bases. Carefully peel away one row of large leaves to form “petals.” Peel away 1 or 2 rows of the dark green leaves until you reach the tender pale-green leaves that are not fibrous. Cut off the top of each artichoke, leaving about
Make 5 tiny vertical slashes into the inside of the leaves to enable them to spread and push open the leaves slightly to make a larger center. The outside leaves may break open slightly but will come back together when pressed gently, after being filled with pâté.
If using fresh truffle, rinse under cold running water, brushing lightly to remove any grit. If using a jarred truffle, drain it and reserve the juice.
Cut the truffle into 12 large thin slices. Keep the slices covered with plastic wrap. Mince the remaining truffle and cover with plastic wrap. (If using the black olives, drain them and cut them in halves. Use a small knife to trim them into an attractive shape. Wrap them in plastic wrap.)
In a medium skillet, over low heat, melt the goose fat or butter and sauté the shallots and garlic until soft and translucent. Turn up the heat and cook the duck or chicken livers quickly, just until browned on all sides, about 1 minute. They should still be rare inside. Add the Cognac and any reserved truffle liquid, scraping the skillet to loosen browned-on particles. Add the ham, minced truffle, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Use a food processor or knife to chop the mixture finely and stir in the cream. Turn the mixture into a pastry bag or heavy-duty freezer bag with the tip cut off, or use a spoon and place about
Place 12 sets of 5 of the reserved large leaves, curved side up, on a serving plate so that the pointed ends are out and the rounded ends touch at the middle to form stars. Place the pâté-filled artichoke bases on top of the center of each star formation.
Top each artichoke with a truffle slice or black olive, shiny skin side up. If desired, use a small clean artist’s brush to brush a little oil on the insides of the large leaves reserved for décor and also on the truffle or black olive to keep them from drying. If not serving for several hours, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Baby chokes are available during the winter. Fresh black truffles are available from November through January.
© 1992 Rose Levy Beranbaum. All rights reserved.