So I’m in the grocery store this week walking around looking for inspiration and I spy artichokes on sale. Just like asparagus, artichokes are coming into season and are yet another sign of Spring’s arrival. Artichokes can look scary and overwhelming to the home cook. What do you do with them? Supposedly they’re very difficult to pair with wine so it’s not just a problem for the home cook. Truthfully, they’re not difficult. In fact they’re pretty easy to work with. The simplest preparation is to trim and boil them until tender and make some sort of aioli or sauce to dip the leaves in. Great for kids, they get to use their fingers. We’re adults here though, so a little more sophistication is needed!
Every year for Easter I usually prepare a roast leg of lamb with some asparagus and potatoes. This year however we’re (hopefully) not going to be around on Sunday. If the flights cooperate we’ll be meeting my brother and his family in the City of Lights, Paris. Woo hoo! So what to do with these artichokes I had sitting in the fridge? I didn’t want to let them sit until we returned and since we’re headed to France I decided to see what Julia Child might recommend. Ah, here’s where I’ll find some sophistication!
She did have some good recipes (of course she did) but I actually was more interested in a technique she used to cook the bottoms. She poached the vegetables in a blanc which is a water-flour-lemon juice mixture. It’s used to prevent discoloration when cooking certain foods, like artichokes. However, all her artichoke recipes seemed to either cook the whole thing or trim everything off and cook only the bottoms. I opted to go in between so I’d have more of a cup to stuff with some sausage.
They turned out great! Today as I’m writing this post I’ve been coming up with all sorts of things you could add to this recipe. I used sausage, roasted red peppers, and topped it with some Hollandaise sauce (yes it’s pathetic looking but still, old college try and all…) but now I’m thinking “oooh an egg on top of the sausage would be perfect for a brunch menu.” Then I thought “you could also stuff it with egg salad.” So many, many possibilities. Poached and hollowed out artichokes are a great vessel for your creativity. You can probably even top the artichokes with some cheese and pop them underneath the broiler to make a hot dish.
Anyway, take advantage of this springtime vegetable. This is a dish where you can assemble the necessary parts the day before then combine them quickly the next day. Poach your artichokes and cook your sausage on Saturday. Then on Sunday all you have to do is cook some eggs and make your sauce. Give it a try for your Easter brunch this weekend, or any weekend, or weeknight!
Sausage Stuffed Artichokes with Roasted Red Peppers
- 4 large globe artichokes
- ¼ C flour
- 2 lemons (for lemon juice and rubbing the trimmed artichokes)
- 1 lb sausage (Italian, chorizo, one that’s spicy, you could even use pancetta cubes if you wanted, ooh I bet some black pudding would work well with this too, why do I think of these things the day after?)
- 2 roasted red peppers julienned
Squeeze half a lemon into a large bowl of water, large enough to hold 4 trimmed and cleaned artichokes.
Cut the stalk off close to the bottom of the artichoke. Snap off all the outer leaves until you get to the leaves inside the “curve” of the bottom. Next, cut off the top to about an inch above the bottom. Rub the cut parts with the other half of the lemon to prevent the artichoke from “oxidizing.”
Take a paring knife and trim/shave the bottom area where you snapped off the leaves. Make sure to shave off all the green color so the bottom is white (or non-green). Drop it into the bowl of lemon water (acidulated water if you want to get all technical) and move on to the next artichoke. Repeat for the rest of them.
After prepping the artichokes add ¼ C flour to a medium-sized saucepan (Julia says not to use an aluminum as it will turn your artichokes grey, she recommends enameled, stainless, or Pyrex). Add a little water and whisk to make a paste. Whisk in the remaining water and 2 Tbs lemon juice. Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes. Add the artichokes and reduce to a simmer. Make sure they are fully covered by the water. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender (it was about 30 minutes for my four). Allow to cool in liquid. When cool, rinse off and allow them to drain on a paper towel.
For the filling, simply brown your sausage. If using encased sausage cut away the casing and brown. You want it “crumbly.”
Take your artichokes and scoop out the middle part, the “choke.” It’s pretty well cooked and they’ll fall apart easily with too much manhandling so I recommend being delicate and just scooping out enough of a hollow you can drop some sausage in.
Can you guess what’s next? That’s right, put some sausage in the artichoke. Lay some red peppers on top. Spoon some Hollandaise over them and serve.
Hollandaise Sauce (try to follow this or just go watch a video on YouTube on how to make it)
- 8 oz butter (melted, and clarified if you really want to do it right)
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- Pinch of cayenne
Heat up some water in a double boiler. No double boiler handy? No problem. Heat up some water to a low simmer in a large pot, one you can fit a small saucepan into and hold in the water to control the heat. You want to heat the egg yolks and cook them slowly so you don’t make scrambled eggs.
Add the egg yolks and lemon juice into your small saucepan/double boiler. Whisk while cooking until the yolks double in volume. It’s ok to undercook the yolks. Make this sauce enough times and you’ll figure it out (clearly, by the photo I need more practice!)
Once the yolks are doubled you can take your saucepan out of the water. Whisk in a few drops of the butter. Continue to do whisk the butter in slowly. When you’ve whisked in half you can add the butter in a more steady stream until all is incorporated. Add a pinch of salt and cayenne to taste.
IF THE SAUCE BREAKS: and it probably will the first few times you try this, just add some water and whisk in. Then continue adding the butter.
This isn’t complicated but it is tricky. Google “Hollandaise Sauce” and watch one of the hundreds of how to videos to get a look at the technique.