I’ve always loved artichokes. A simple steamed artichoke with a side of melted butter is a true indulgence. My mom made them for me like this as a kid, not all that often, but when she did, they were a real treat. Artichokes are themselves a very versatile vegetable and can be used to make numerous things from spinach artichoke dip to a simple, elegant artichoke soup. I was inspired to make this soup by a friend who brought me some beautiful farm-fresh Spring chokes recently, so Andy, this recipe is for you.
The globe artichoke, also known as a French artichoke or green artichoke, comes from a flowering plant (also known as a thistle) that is cultivated as food. The edible portion of the plant consists of flower buds before the flowers bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is actually a cluster of many budding small flowers on an edible base. They look funny, are often intimidating to cook, but have the most wonderful, unique, earthy flavor that’s seductive and memorable to the palate.
From a health prospective, artichokes themselves are considered low in fat, rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Artichokes are particularly high in folate and vitamins C and K, and contain important minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron and rank among the most antioxidant-rich of all vegetables. The takeaway, these guys are loaded with nutritional value and you should eat more artichokes in your diet.
This soup is a lighter soup for Springtime, and while it does contain some heavy cream (that’s the French chef in me) it is not overly rich, as many soups with cream can be, and the texture is smooth. Crispy fried artichokes add texture and finish the soup in a complimentary way so take the time to make them, as they are much more than just a simple garnish.
Cooking with artichokes can be intimidating, I totally get it. Let’s change that. Knowing how to work with this wonderful vegetable is the only way you will ever conquer your fears. For steaming an artichoke, it’s all about trimming. Once you get the hang of that, it only takes a few minutes. Making soup with fresh artichokes is the next level up. For more extensive tips, tricks and visuals on working and prepping artichokes for this soup or others check out this link.
Tips on buying artichokes: Artichokes are at their peak from March until June. The farm stand ones are the very best if you can find them, but of at the grocery store, look for artichokes that are firm and heavy with a dark green color and tightly closed leaves. The heavier the choke, the fresher it is.
Spring Artichoke Soup
- For the Soup:
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 8 medium artichokes
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- 2 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3/4-1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 5 cups chicken stock
- one (2-inch) piece of Parmesan rind
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- fresh cracked black peppercorns
- For the Crispy Artichokes:
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 medium artichokes, thinly sliced
- vegetable oil, for frying
- salt, as needed
- Step 1 For the Soup: Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water. Add the lemon juice and place near your work station.
- Step 2 Working one artichoke at a time, snap off the hard outer leaves. Using a knife, cut off the stem, trimming the vase as need and cut off the top two thirds of the leaves. Using a teaspoon, gently scrape out all the furry stuff on top of the artichoke heart. Rub the heart all over with the lemon half and place in the water. Repeat the above process with the remaining artichokes.
- Step 3 Drain the artichoke hearts, pat dry and set aside. Place a medium size stockpot over low medium heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, but not smoking, add the artichoke hearts, potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook, while stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
- Step 4 Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Step 5 When cool enough to handle, remove the parmesan rind. Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan, stir in the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning as needed. Keep the soup warm while you make the crispy artichokes.
- Step 6 For the Crispy Artichokes: Fill a small mixing bowl with cold water. Add the lemon juice and place near your work station. Remove the outer leaves until you reach the pale green/yellow ones. Using a knife, cut off 1/2 of the top. Trim the bottoms removing the hard outer areas. Run the artichoke with lemon and place in the prepared bowl. Repeat the above with the remaining artichoke.
- Step 7 Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice the artichokes and place back in the lemon water. Set aside.Line a plate with paper towels and place near your work station.
- Step 8 Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add enough oil so it is about 1/2-inch deep. Drain and pat dry the sliced artichokes. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add some artichokes and cook, stirring frequently, till crispy and golden, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the artichokes form the oil and drain on the prepared plate. Season with salt and repeat the above process until all the artichoke shavings are cooked.
- Step 9 To Serve: Ladle the soup in serving bowls and top with a generous amount of crispy artichokes and some fresh cracked black peppercorns.