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Give tender-hearted sweetie (the artichoke) a chance

On the surface, the artichoke seems a little intimidating, but this vegetable is worth the effort. Try pairing it with bone-in chicken pieces.

New York Times

On the surface, the artichoke seems a little intimidating, but this vegetable is worth the effort. Try pairing it with bone-in chicken pieces.

Artichokes are not the most welcoming of vegetables. Armored in leathery petals and topped off with thorns, they look more like medieval weaponry than something you'd want to douse in butter and offer for dinner.

But stripped down to their tender hearts and simmered until their flesh turns velvety soft, they are a delicacy. They are beloved wherever they're grown, in Mediterranean-type climates where the winters are mild. That means California, where artichokes arrive in spring, ready to ship.

One classic method for cooking artichokes is to braise them in a mix of olive oil, garlic, chili, white wine and herbs. Here, I've taken that concept and added chicken.

With their intense character, artichokes can be hard to pair with other big personalities. But bone-in chicken pieces are amenable, and go nicely with everything else in the pan. Also, adding chicken turns a side into a meal.

This is an especially good thing when it comes to artichokes, which do require preparation before they're ready for your pot.

The first step is to declaw them, cutting off any thorns. Then trim off the toughest petals and peel the stems. Finally, the furry interior choke needs to go. I like to use a serrated spoon to attack the choke.

Be ruthless when trimming; only about a third to half of any artichoke is edible. Get rid of all the fibrous, unpleasant outer bits, leaving only the pale-hued sweet parts: the heart, the center of the stem, and the thinnest, most delicate interior leaves. Small "baby" artichokes have a higher percentage of edible flesh than larger globe artichokes. But bigger artichokes have bigger hearts.

While everything braises, the artichokes melt, the chicken turns silky and the sauce reduces into something thick, savory and perfect for swiping with bread.

The only downside to braising is that the browned chicken skin goes from crisp to soft. To restore some crunch and to add color to the artichokes, as a final step I sprinkle everything with grated Parmesan and run the whole pan under the broiler.

Golden-topped, speckled with the cheese and highly aromatic with garlic and wine, this dish turns a forbidding thistle into a welcoming dinner.


Braised Chicken With Artichokes and Olives

1 ½ lemons

3 medium artichokes, about 1 ½ pounds

3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved

Pinch red pepper flakes

¾ cup dry white wine

cup pitted olives, halved (use black, green or a mix)

2 large rosemary branches

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed

Chives or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a large bowl of water. Discard the outer leaves of each artichoke. As you do so, and as you continue cleaning the artichokes, dip them into the lemon water to stop the cut sides from browning. Use a paring knife to peel the base and stems. Slice off the top third of each artichoke. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon, scoop out the hairy chokes inside, pulling out any prickly purple leaves as well. Slice each half into 3 pieces. Put trimmed artichoke pieces in lemon water until needed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. In a large (12-inch) ovenproof skillet with a lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and sear in batches until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add artichokes and garlic to pan, adding more oil if needed, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute more.

Pour in wine and stir in olives, rosemary branches and grated zest of ½ lemon. (Do not discard after zesting.) Return chicken to pan. Bring liquid to a simmer.

Cover pan and transfer to oven. Cook until chicken is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (Check white meat after 25 minutes and remove from oven if done.) Transfer chicken to a plate and place skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer until pan juices thicken and become saucelike, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in butter. Remove rosemary.

Return chicken to pan and sprinkle with cheese. Adjust oven heat to broil and place pan in the oven until cheese is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it does not burn.) Squeeze juice of remaining lemon half over pan and serve garnished with chives or mint if you like.

Serves 4.

Source: New York Times

Give tender-hearted sweetie (the artichoke) a chance 05/30/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2016 11:07am]
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