Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cream of Artichoke Soup or "California Dreamin" on such a Winters Day

This weather has been really getting to everyone up here in NYC this winter. I think everyone is ready for a little springtime relief. But I am not waiting till then. I am taking matters into my own hands and having a little California Dreaming cooking moment right now. That's right just like the song by the Mama's and the Papa's although I prefer the updated Beach Boys version.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk on a winters day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin', on such a winters day.

Whether you know it or not most of the Artichokes grown here in the US come from California. In fact the town of Castroville has the self-proclaimed title of "center of the universe". It's committed when it comes to this bulb of the sun flower cousin that is so tasty, in fact the town even holds an annual festival for the artichoke.

And I love artichokes. Oh yes I do. In fact when I was about 3 I opened the refrigerator door and pulled out a jar of marinated artichokes and consumed the whole thing. An act which promptly had me break out in a rash and required a trip to the Doctor's office. Needless to say I don't remember that too well but to this day I have an undying love of the artichoke in all of it's culinary incarnations.

So truth be told this recipe did not come about on it's own. I had a couple of bags of frozen artichoke hearts lying around and decided they needed to be cooked. So in researching what to do with them I came across an article about a James Beard award winning restaurant in California called Duarte's. They are one of 5 to 10 restaurants in the country dubbed a "classic" by the esteemed James Beard Foundation. Oh yeah did I mention they have been around for 118 years. That's pretty awesome sounding. So in my readings I found that they had a famous recipe for cream of artichoke soup. Well I am a sucker for a creamy anything and I love old classic places so my interest was peaked. Well it could not be simpler. There were a few recipes out there on the web for this soup but I think I got one that's spot on. It's not complicated but wow is it good. While it is vegetarian it is not low calorie, sorry. I suppose you could make it without the cream since you add it at the end ( which I actually did, but was not as good so I added the cream.).  Eat this with some crusty bread and a fresh green salad and you have a Californian style meal that's sure to satisfy.

Duarte's Tavern Cream of Artichoke soup.
Recipe based roughly on various versions of this soup.
Makes 6 servings


3 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and roughly chopped

1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated parmesan ( optional )
Lemon wedges, for serving


Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes.
Add wine
Add artichokes; cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add stock; bring to a boil. 
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until artichokes are very tender, about 20 minutes. 
Transfer stock and vegetables to a blender; puree until smooth. 
Return to saucepan, add cream ( and cheese if using ) and the lemon juice, and bring to a simmer over medium heat 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced a little, about 15 minutes. 
Season with salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread on the side.

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