Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Braised Artichokes with Basil Coconut Cream Sauce

I grew up in Southern California where artichokes were on our dinner table at least twice a month from Spring through early Summer.  It was easily my favorite thing to eat as a child. My mother prepared them simply.  She would steam the big ones for about 45 minutes in a big pot of water, melt about half a pound of butter, divided into two dipping bowls, set a big empty plate in the center of the table and we would systematically pull the leaves, dip them, and then rake the tender bases through our teeth creating a mountain of stripped leaves as a centerpiece.  The real treat came when you got to the delicate yet extremely pointy interior leaves.  My father would carefully scrape out the fibrous center (it was such a beautiful purple color) and we would treasure eating the hearts dipped in yet more butter.  I really could go on and on about this vegetable but I want to get to another way of preparation I've been favoring lately.

Swanton Berry Farm  has had some really nice artichokes the last few weeks.  They have them in various sizes and I've been picking the smallest ones to use for this method as they don't have a choke and prepping them is fairly straightforward.  The first time I did this I only picked up 8 artichokes.  They weren't enough.  This time out I had at least 15 and I think we all got what we wanted.  The basil cream sauce goes with anything (I made it with pork chops the other night using the pan juices and bits from the chops).  You can make it vegetarian by just using vegetable stock...

Braised Artichokes with Basil Coconut Cream Sauce
serves 4--you can easily halve this or double it

15 small or "baby" artichokes
3 TBSP. olive oil
3 TBSP. butter or ghee
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 lemon halved

for the sauce:
1/4 cup coconut milk from a can
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Prep the artichokes by getting a large bowl of cold water and squeezing the lemon halves into it.  Leave the squeezed lemon itself in the bowl.  Prep each artichoke individually.  Cut the stem right up to the bottom of the base and top 1/2 inch off each artichoke.  Snap off and discard outer leaves until you get to pale center leaves.  Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and put it right into the bowl of lemon water.    The lemon will help keep the artichoke from turning an unsightly brown color.

In a large saute pan heat the olive oil and butter until foamy.  Drain the artichokes and saute for about 10 minutes over medium high heat, letting the artichokes gain some color but don't let them burn.  Add the stock, set the heat down to low, cover the pan and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Transfer artichokes to a separate bowl, leaving stock in the pan, and keep warm.  Add chopped basil, coconut milk, salt and pepper and whisk together until blended.  Turn heat up to medium and let the sauce reduce to your desired consistency.

I served this with a simple grilled flank steak tonight and we just drowned everything in the sauce.  It was VERY tasty!

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