Spring is for Artichokes

Spring has sprung and with it we are diving into our favorite vegetable of the moment, the noble and delicious artichoke. When I eat artichokes, I often find myself daydreaming about vacations in Rome, foggy drives through coastal artichoke fields in Monterey, and the incredible crispy “Carciofi Alla Judea” at Locanda Osteria in the mission — the stuff foodie dreams are made of. My family’s very favorite simple preparation, “Ali’s Artichokes”, is pretty dreamy in its own right. I think my boys mostly love artichokes because they are fun to eat and I suppose that’s just fine too. Happy Spring!

The noble and delicious artichoke.

"Ali's artichokes" our favorite way to eat them.

"Artichoke Friend" (with his pal the carrot), by Luca

We're waiting for Sherm, mascot of our garden, to start producing!

Ali’s Artichokes

My cousin Ali, a master of the grill, taught me to make artichokes this way. That little bit of crispness and char make them especially delicious.

  1. Start your steamer and have it hot and ready to go because artichokes start to discolor the moment you cut them.
  2. While your steamer is getting hot, trim your artichokes. Here’s a great video by Chef Ian Knauer (below).  If you’re planning to trim them ahead, toss them in a bowl of water to which you have added a generous squeeze of lemon to keep them from discoloring.   ** For this preparation, we like our artichokes trimmed and cut in half. We don’t bother removing the chokes, because they’re easier  to scoop out after steaming. **
  3. Steam until just tender. I steam them for 20 minutes and then start checking them every 5-10 minutes. Once tender, I let them cool a bit until they’re cool enough to handle. I scoop out the choke with a spoon and then “marinate” them in olive oil and sea salt. You can grill them right away or leave them covered in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Before serving, give them 5 minutes on a grill or under the broiler to crisp them and give them a bit of char.
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Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic-Glazed Drumettes

There are some recipes that really get you salivating, like this beauty I found in the “Genius Recipes” section of the website Food 52 which comes courtesy of former Gourmet magazine Food Editor, Ian Knauer. Rosemary, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar reduced to a sweet-tangy, syrupy glaze is something I might be halfway tempted to drink all on its own if I thought I could get away with it, but chicken drumettes (or pork ribs as the original recipe calls for) are probably a more civilized vehicle. I don’t see why you couldn’t try using this glaze on vegetables, say a portobello mushroom or a thick slab of zucchini. I could see that being very tasty indeed. Needless to say I was a hero to my family for making this. Husband, preschooler and baby… they all loved it as much as I did.

Click here to check out the original recipe and browse some of Food 52’s other “Genius Recipes” (Brown Butter Tart Crust, Waffles of Insane Greatness or Le Bernadin’s Crispy Skinned Fish, anyone?) But before you click on over there, here are my notes for making this dish weeknight dinner-friendly. You could also use the same marinade-then-roast-then-broil technique and change the flavor profile (think chili, lime and honey), with inspiration from Simran’s “Icky Sticky Chicken Wings” recipe.

Sticky Balsamic Glazed Chicken Drumettes (based on a recipe for ribs from Ian Knauer)

In the morning, the day before: Marinate your drumettes.

  • The marinade is pantry-friendly: equal parts minced rosemary, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar (Tablespoon of each ought to do it) and enough water to loosen things up a little. Salt and pepper, dash of cayenne if you like. I know Simran would spice this up with some dried chiles.
  • Toss the drumettes well in the marinade, place in a baking dish, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Night before: Roast the drumettes and make the glaze.

  • Ian Knauer uses a hot oven to roast the ribs (425 degrees). I roasted my drumettes at 425 for about 30-35 minutes, then removed them to a plate to cool.
  • Deglaze the roasting pan with more balsamic, water and brown sugar (I used 2 parts vinegar, 2 parts water and 1 part sugar, for about 1 1/4 cups of liquid). Make sure to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the baking dish. I then transferred the glaze to a sauce pan to reduce and placed the cooled drumettes back into the roasting pan, covered them with foil and returned them to the refrigerator.
  • Reducing the glaze until it’s the consistency of maple syrup is  critical and it does take a while (maybe 20-25 minutes). It’s got to be thick enough to coat and stick to the chicken. Let the glaze bubble away, stirring occasionally until it has thickened. Pour it into a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate it.

Dinner time: You can get this deliciousness on the table in hurry with minimum of fuss.

  • Preheat your broiler, liberally brush the glaze on the chicken and broil for 5-8 minutes turning a few times and brushing on more glaze until the chicken is heated through and the glaze is caramelized.