I still remember the first time I really ate an artichoke – it was at a friend’s house, for dinner. I’m sure I’d had artichokes before this one – in cheesy, crappy spinach artichoke dips at a bar, jarred and marinated artichoke hearts in a salad from a deli, or stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese and all sorts of other junk at a holiday party.
But I’d never dealt with an actual, whole artichoke, set before me with the leaves on, ready to be dismembered and eaten in its true, most basic form. At this dinner, my friend’s dad made this incredible, rich hollandaise sauce for the artichokes (which were steamed), and we dipped the softened inner leaves of the artichoke into the rich, buttery sauce and pulled off the veggiemeat greedily with our teeth. At my first bite, I couldn’t believe it. My family certainly never ate anything that indulgent for dinner. It was my first time eating hollandaise as well, but that’s another story.
Anyways I never forgot those artichokes and have since been a huge fan of this perennial thistle, especially when it is combined with a rich, egg-based sauce of some sort. This summer, I’ve been thinking about making a Caesar salad with grilled romaine but still have not gotten around to it (mainly because every single meal I eat or cook on my days off is bruschetta on grilled bread). But I really have been craving that Caesar dressing. So when I saw some pretty, purple baby artichokes at the Stuy town farmer’s market this Sunday, my memory of artichokes and hollandaise spawned a new idea of a reinvented Caesar salad, one that involved glazed artichokes instead of lettuce.
For me, the major big taste elements in the Caesar that may be regarded, (misguidedly) with hesitance by some, are the raw eggs and anchovies in the dressing. But those are the two delicious, mouthwatering items that make the dressing so flavorful and sexy. So I decided, for this reinvented Caesar bite to make an aioli using an anchovy paste, garlic (and of course egg yolk). To top it off on the excessive level, I added a second egg element by slicing hard-boiled quail eggs. And it wouldn’t really be a Caesar salad without something crunchy, so I replaced the mundane crouton with a sprinkling of fried shallots. This bite was basically born in my subconscious, celebrating my love of artichokes, eggs, Caesar salads, and above all, indulgent meals.
(Makes 4 with some leftover dressing)
1 baby purple artichoke
2 quail eggs
1 shallot, thinly sliced and fried
Caesar aioli (recipe below)
For the Artichokes:
I braised the artichokes to soften them before glazing. This made them tender and more flavorful.
To Clean Artichokes:
- First peel off outer layers of tough leaves.
- When you get down to the part of the artichoke where the heart is, the middle of the artichoke will slope inward. Cut off the rest of the top leaves of the artichoke and scoop out the choke.
- Quarter the artichoke heart. If you are not cooking right away, place heart into a bowl of water with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. This will prevent the heart from oxidizing and turning brown.
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 pieces of dried mushrooms
3 tbsp ramp pickling liquid
3 tbsp beer
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
- Sweat the shallot and garlic in a little butter and oil until softened and slightly browned.
- Add the artichoke hearts and sweat for 1-2 minutes, without adding color. Season well.
- Deglaze with ramp pickling liquid and beer. Cover with 1 cup water and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes until hearts are softened.
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp honey
Braising liquid, to deglaze
- Heat a small pot until very hot. Add canola oil and when nearly smoking, add artichoke hearts and brown on all sides.
- When artichokes are sufficiently browned, add honey and cook until it begins to caramelize and turn golden brown. Be careful not to burn, as such a small amount of honey will cook quickly.
- When honey has caramelized, add the butter. It will melt quickly and sizzle loudly. Deglaze with a very small amount of the artichoke braising liquid. The glaze should be thick and viscous.
For the Caesar Aioli:
Aioli is an emulsion, a mixture of two liquids that normally do not blend. Eggs and mustard are the emulsifiers in this aioli, acting as agents that allow the oil soluble particles to be suspended in the water soluble particles, creating a creamy mixture instead of a broken sauce. There are many variations on the classic aioli, which at its most basic contains garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. This is my Caesar variation.
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 ¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp ramp pickling liquid
1 clove garlic, minced and made into a paste
1 anchovy fillet, minced and made into a paste
Salt and pepper
1 tsp paprika
- Combine the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk together. Slowly add the canola oil in a gradual drizzle, whisking the entire time to combine thoroughly before adding more oil.
- When aioli has emulsified and no longer has an egg-y finish, add pickling liquid, garlic, anchovy and seasonings. Whisk all ingredients together well and refrigerate.
For the Bite:
- Place quail eggs in about 2 inches of cold water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once water starts to boil, cook eggs for 2 minutes. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Peel and slice eggs into ¼ inch slices.
- Slice a single shallot into thin, 1/8 inch slices. Heat an inch of canola oil in a small pot.
- To test whether oil is ready for frying, drop a single slice of shallot into the hot oil. When it bubbles up from the bottom right away, the oil is ready.
- Fry shallots until they are golden brown, agitating them frequently so they separate and do not stick together. Have a dry paper towel laid out on a plate ready to go for the fried shallots. Salt while still hot.
- Fill the glazed artichoke heart with a spoonful of aioli and the hardboiled slice of egg. Top with fried shallots.
© 2010 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle