Wow. It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?
To be honest, I really don’t think I’ve even done so much as opened a cookbook in the last few weeks. It’s taken me a little longer than expected to figure out my schedule, post-holidays.
Before we get into this dish, I’d like to share a couple of pretty cool things with you.
If you read this post, you know by now that I’m a big fan of Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Twenty. I made his roast chicken with rustic pan sauce, which of course was a tremendously delicious hit. Maybe you heard about that post when it was published through Twitter. Oh, wait, you aren’t following me on Twitter? That’s o.k., because although you may have missed that tweet, Michael Ruhlman didn’t. Imagine my surprise when I found this mention in my Twitter feed–
The next awesome food-related experience I want to share with you has to do with the restaurant, Next. (No, I did not eat there.) The brainchild of chef/genius Grant Achatz, of Alinea, Next is a restaurant that only exists for three months at a time. For three months, the folks at Next create stunning, delicious dishes that capture the essence of a particular cuisine, and the entire restaurant changes along with it–the servicewear, the decor, everything but the location. Then, when those three months are up, the restaurant changes all over again. So, in its less than nine months of being open, Next has gone from Paris, 1906 (yes, that’s a specific date, not just French food in general) to modern-day Thailand to its current theme…
At its opening, Chef Achatz posted a YouTube video promo for Childhood. I really, really wanted to share that video with all of you, but sadly, it has been removed from YouTube. At Childhood, diners are served Grant Achatz’s versions of the foods that are probably part of all of our childhood memories; PB&J, Mac and Cheese (with what seemed to be fifteen complimentary flavors), chicken-noodle soup, smore’s, what looked like a deconstructed hamburger, something resembling an Oreo (which I’m sure was filled with foie gras cream, or something equally amazing).
From there, the video focuses on a shot of one of the kitchen staff cleaning a set of gleaming silver beaters, from one of those hand-held whisks. I recognized them immediately, not because I have one in my own kitchen (I don’t), but because I remember my mother using them all the time. She would use them to make chocolate mousse (before becoming a health-nut), or cake batter, or something known to everyone in my family as “strawberry pouf”. I can still hear the the loud scraping sound that those beaters would make, hitting against the side of the mixing bowl. I was curious to see what this old-timey instrument was doing in Next’s kitchen, only to have my answer a moment later…
It was a serving piece.
Part of the dessert course, the beaters are given to the diner with “batter” dripping from them, no spoons neccessary. Diners get to lick that batter (boy, I wish I knew what that tastes like) from the whisks, just like that little kid in Mom’s kitchen, hanging around and waiting for a chance to turn on the KitchenAid.
Watching that video, I felt like Tom Haverford looking at his shapes. I know that there are a great many chefs who take pride in their food being very artistic. But this made me realize that there is a tremendous difference between food presented artistically, and food which actually is art. Art is supposed to evoke emotion, and when I saw this dish, for a second I felt myself transported back to my childhood, to cooking with my mom. It was, in the words of Michael Ruhlman, a true “aha!” moment.
So now that you know that I’m a nerd who gets emotional at the sight of food, let’s get into this dish. Let me just get this out of the way– there were a zillion components to this thing, and you’re thinking about recreating it yourself, just know, it’s gonna take a while.
I started by making the artichokes Barigoule, which is a very flavorful way to stew artichokes.
First, I peeled and cleaned all the artichokes–
If you’d like more detailed instructions on how to properly peel and clean artichokes, search for “Good Eats Artichoke” on YouTube, and the master, Alton Brown, will show you how. That happens to be exactly what I did, however, I didn’t halve the chokes like he does.
Then came the braising liquid. I sauteed some carrots–
then added some thinly sliced fennel–
then some onions, shallots and garlic.
That’s some olive oil, white wine, and fresh vegetable stock. Before this went into the pan, the artichokes did, by themselves, for ten minutes and with the lid on. Then I covered them with the braising liquid
That thing in floating in the middle is called a bouqet garni, and is an old-school way for adding herbs and seasoning to cooked dishes. Here’s how you do it–
That’s some parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, held together by a few outer leaves of a leek and some twine. It’s just as easy as using some cheesecloth, and is a great way to use up some extra veggies.
The artichokes cooked down for another twenty minutes, or so. When they were done, I strained out the liquid through my trusty chinois over the now tender artichokes, making sure to reserve all the liquid, because it will be used later for the most amazing vinaigrette I’ve ever had.
So that brings us to the close of Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I make homemade ravioli for the first time, and tell you about a project I’m currently working on; one which will hopefully change the way that lots of people cook at home…
All the best!