Ragout of Artichokes with Wine and Herbs

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

    as a first course

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

During the 1970s, the “Queen of Artichokes” in France was a young woman chef named Dominique Versini Nahmias, known simply as Olympe. Recently, while surfing the net, I discovered that Salinas, California, celebrated its first artichoke festival in 1948. And who was the first “artichoke queen” in this country? It was Marilyn Monroe. I don't know whether MM really liked artichokes, but I think if she'd tasted this dish, she would have found it memorable and royal.

Here is Olympe's recipe for a rich, lush ragout of artichoke bottoms cooked in a combination of red and white wine and flavored with orange peel, diced pancetta, and chives. The bottoms are served in the remaining pan juices cooked down to a syrupy sauce, with a dash of olive oil added to make it shine.

What I especially like about Dominique's method of cooking artichokes is that I can leave them to cook slowly by themselves over very low heat, with a crumpled wet piece of parchment paper placed over them, and the pan covered with a tight-fitting lid. As they cook, they slowly soak in the liquid and turn plump, silky, and succulent. Over the years, this method has never let me down.

Ingredients

  • 16 small or 8 medium artichokes (about pounds)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion(s)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely diced carrot
  • ½ cup diced pancetta (2½ to 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 imported bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Method

  1. Break off and discard the tough outer leaves of each artichoke, then break off the stems. This will remove the stringy parts of the bottom, which are tough. Rub the cut surfaces with the lemon halves. Trim away the rough areas around the stem and any tough, fibrous parts of the leaves. Cut larger artichokes in half; scoop out and discard the fuzzy chokes. Squeeze lemon juice into a bowl of water and add the artichoke pieces.
  2. In a medium nonreactive skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions, onion, and carrot and cook until glazed, about 1 minute. Add the pancetta and cook for 1 minute longer, or until lightly brown. Drain the artichokes, pat dry, and add them to the skillet along with the garlic, orange zest, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, tossing to coat the ingredients with the fat in the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, red wine, and white wine and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender. Remove from the heat and without uncovering the lid, let the artichokes cool down slowly.
  4. Transfer the artichokes and aromatics to a serving dish. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Boil the pan juices until reduced to a thick syrupy sauce, about 3 tablespoons. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and add the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Pour the sauce over the artichokes. Sprinkle with the chives and serve warm or cool.