© Copyright 2009 Deborah Dal Fovo. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
As beautiful to admire as they are to eat, Roman Style Artichokes are cooked and served upside down with stems pointing to the heavens. This ancient dish pays homage to the anise-hinted globe, trimmed of tough scaly exteriors to reveal rose-like silhouettes, by braising them in a fragrant bath of olive oil, garlic and mint until fork tender and infused with fresh, springtime flavor. Trimming the artichokes down to tender petals is the most time consuming part of this dish, whose impressive presentation and incomparable taste make it well worth the time.
- 4 large globe artichokes, with minimum 4-inch stems attached
- 2 lemons
- 2 large cloves garlic, very finely minced
- ½ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, very finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, very finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2/3 cup/160ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup/240ml water
- ½ cup/120ml dry white wine
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Prepare an acidulated bath for the trimmed artichokes by filling a large bowl with cold water and squeezing in the juice of one lemon. Cut the other lemon in half to rub over the artichokes while trimming.
Trim the artichokes in the following manner: hold an artichoke globe in the palm of your left hand with the stem pointing down. Pull off any small leaves around the base of the artichoke with your other hand. Then, starting from the bottom row of petals, bend a petal back until it snaps at its natural breaking point and pull off the tough, dark green tip leaving its tender, light green base attached to the globe. Repeat with the next petal in the row while rotating the artichoke in the opposite direction. Work around and up the globe to remove all dark green tips to expose the pale leaf bases beneath (as you proceed the pale leaf base will increase in size and there will be less to remove). When you reach the top, a central dome of pointed, feathery, light-colored leaves will appear. Cut 1-inch off the top of the dome then, using the tip of a paring knife or serrated spoon inserted behind these leaves and rotated in a circular motion, cut out all the pointed central leaves. Then gently scrape away any fuzzy choke, without damaging the artichoke heart beneath, to create a clean, bowl-like cavity in the center. Rub inside the cavity and all the cut parts with the cut side of a lemon half to prevent discoloration.
Peel the stem of the artichoke by turning it upside down and cutting off the end, then slicing away the outer green layer of the stem to reveal the white core. Trim off any remaining dark green or raggedy edges left on the artichoke globe so it resembles a rose. Submerge the trimmed artichoke in the acidulated bath while you trim the rest. When all the artichokes are trimmed and ready to fill, remove them from the water bath and pat each dry, inside and out, with paper toweling.
In a small bowl, make a paste by mixing together the finely chopped garlic, parsley, mint, 1-teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste and 1-tablespoon olive oil. Divide the garlic-herb mixture into 4 portions and fill the center cavity of each artichoke with one portion of the mixture. Using your fingers, rub the paste into the walls of the cavity then in between the leaves, around the outside of the globe and along the stems.
Place the artichokes face down with stems pointing up in a heavy bottomed pan large enough to comfortably hold the artichokes and tall enough for their stems to be covered with a tight fitting lid. Pour the remaining olive oil over the artichokes then add the water and wine to the pan (the liquid should cover the bottom 1/3 of the artichoke globes). Sprinkle the contents of the pan lightly with salt and pepper. Dampen paper towels or a clean tea towel large enough to cover the top of the pan with water. Drape this over the pan and tightly fit the lid over the towel. Turn the towel ends back over the lid to avoid burning. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender when a knife is easily inserted into the base of the stem.
Transfer the artichokes, face down and stems up, to a serving platter. Boil the cooking liquid for a few more minutes to reduce and thicken it to an emulsion consistency. Spoon the sauce over the inverted artichokes and serve warm or at room temperature.