Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wild Rice Pancakes With Hearts and Puree of Artichokes

Artichokes are a forgiving vegetable. You can boil the hell out of them, take a phone call, do a load of laundry, mow the lawn...and if you haven't boiled the pot dry, the artichokes will probably still need a few more minutes of cooking. While I might have disagreed with my mother's choice of low-fat margarine as a dipping sauce for artichokes (and in later years, non-fat Italian salad dressing-I flat-out refused to eat that one) it was the one and only vegetable she was incapable of ruining (pity the poor cabbages that had the misfortune of ending up in our grocery carriage). Unfortunately, I never enjoyed eating them as it took forever to peel all those leaves away, and make an attempt at scraping the flesh from them with my teeth. By the time I was done fiddling with all that nonsense, the best part at the centre was dead cold-and no amount of low-fat margarine was going to rescue that. If you think I'll have my child suffer the same artichoke traumas of my youth, you are mistaken. No, I've worked out a way to have the best part of the artichoke, without wasting the leaves. You can still boil the daylights out of them, but you're going to need a food mill to deal with the puree at the end.

When the boys sat down to dinner, Mr. ETB said this was the sort of meal you would get at a nice resort. As he's never actually taken me to a resort, (unless you count that dive in the Poconos that had a hot-tub in the room, and we didn't have anything to consume there except cheap sparkling wine and brandy) I have to assume it is some memory from his youth where his parents dragged the kids around the world. I went to the Catskills once, but I can assure you they weren't serving wild rice pancakes with artichoke puree. I do recall some cheese blintzes though. Right, so this is what Mr. ETB considers a "fancy" meal. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but I have the memory of making a goose confit, all manner of things encased in home made puff paste, and he's impressed by pancakes. Sort of related, Danny said, rather out-of-the-blue today, "Mama? If you ever don't know what to make for dinner, you could make that corn pie again. You should make that every time you don't know what to make." So again, pancakes and shoving vegetables into pastry seem to be the way to impress my family. I'll make a note of that.

The vegetables I served with the pancakes and artichokes are a combination of what I had in the garden, what I had in the larder, and a very tame selection of spices. Because artichokes and wild rice both have such strong, grass-like flavours, I didn't want to use garlic, or rosemary, or anything that would compete with it. I had a very mild red onion, but shallots would have been fine as well. I used the tiniest bit of tarragon and some thyme, along with parsley from the garden. Salt and pepper rounded it out with a bit of chopped, preserved lemon. Use whatever vegetables and beans you have, but keep the seasonings a bit on the plain side.

I have been using very small, tender Borlotto beans as I would a green bean. Once they develop past a couple inches, you can use the beans inside fresh, or dried, but the tender pods are so nice, I wonder if any of my beans will reach maturity before I pick them all. They loose the pretty speckled colour when they are cooked (much like purple bush beans) but that's a small price to pay for such wonderful beans.

The recipe for the pancakes comes from The Best Quick Breads by, Beth Hensperger. I wondered if it was worth the $3.50 I paid for it used, but based on the reaction to the pancakes, I think I got my money's worth. The wild rice I used was not actually wild, but cultivated. I followed the cooking instructions on the package, but that varies by brand, so I suggest you do the same. Cook the rice well ahead as it needs to be cooled.

You Will Need:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced (I used about 3 tablespoons finely minced red onion)
1 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled wild rice

Melt butter in a skillet, add shallot and cook until soft. Set aside to cool. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and shallots, eggs, and milk. Beat until just smooth. Stir in rice.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly grease and ladle about 2 tablespoons batter into pan. Cook until bubbles form on surface. Turn, cook about another minute on opposite side. keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven, or serve immediately.

For The Artichokes:

2 large artichokes
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
(about) 1/4 cup heavy cream

Cut the stems from the artichokes and reserve. Cut the tops from the artichokes until you have exposed the "choke" part. Leave this in place. In a large pot of boiling water, add the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, the trimmed artichoke hearts, and the stems. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a quick simmer and cook for about 40 minutes or until tender. The stems may take longer, so leave them in if you must. Let the hearts cool, then trim away the choke leaving the hearts. Chill until needed. Meanwhile, in another large pot with the remaining lemon juice, gently the reserved leaves in a covered pot until they are very tender. You will need to scrape them clean with a spoon, so if in doubt, pull one from the water and see if the flesh will scrape. if not, keep boiling. This may take about an hour.let them cool until you can handle them, then carefully scrape them out. Reserve this in a bowl along with the cooked stems. At this point you can peel the stems (discard the peel), and chop-up the insides.

Place the pulp from the leaves and the stems in a small, heavy saucepan with the butter and oil. Cook over medium heat, mashing with a wooden spoon as you go. The pulp should begin to look fibrous. That's OK. Remove from heat and run it through a food mill to remove the fibre. You will probably have about 1/4 cup of pulp. This seems like a lot of work for so little, but it is quite concentrated in flavour. Return it to a small pot, add cream slowly over medium heat, whisking until you have a not-too-thick consistency (this is more a matter of taste). Adjust salt and pepper. Return the reserved hearts to the pot, cover and heat until just warmed through. Serve with sauce over and alongside the hearts.


Raymond said...

I must protest your derision of my beloved artichoke! She is a glorious thistle who provided me many beloved childhood memories: watching them grow in my back yard, finally deciding when they're big enough to cut, doing so, and handing them over to mom to cook (she pressure-cooked them). And the family enjoyment of eating them was one of our only shared mutual delights in my dysfunctional house. Artichokes and I both hail from the California coastside, so maybe in there is some natural inclination for me to love them.

Goody said...

I suppose if you're busy scraping artichokes through your teeth, you can't be arguing.