Carciofi sott ‘olio
Baby Artichoke Confit
Artichokes rank as one of the most Italian of vegetables, and slow cooking them in a floral olive oil intensifies their sweet and nutty flavor. You will see carciofi on every menu- grilled, boiled, stuffed, and preserved and featured on an antipasti menu. A typical carciofi sott ‘olio recipe pickles the artichokes in vinegar and then immerses them in oil. This recipe skips the pickling and yields a more versatile, less acidic flavor that makes an ideal addition to your pantry.
Submerged in oil, the artichokes will keep in your refrigerator for months. Tender, baby artichokes (similar to the classically Roman kind) are the best ones to use for this recipe but large, globe ones trimmed down to their softer, interior yellow leaves work as well.
Adapted from Jody Adams, Rialto Restaurant
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, diced 1/2 inch
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 pounds baby artichokes, trimmed and cut in half (about 24)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Scrub 2 lemons, then cut them in half. Combine the juice of 1½ of the lemons with 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl. Add the squeezed rinds to the water. Save the remaining lemon half to use during trimming.
One at a time, trim ½ inch off the crown of each artichoke and snap off any tough dark or scarred outer leaves, until only pale yellow-green leaves remain. Trim away the tip of the stem and peel the stem itself. As you finish each artichoke, rub the cut spots with the lemon half to prevent the flesh from turning brown and cover with acidulated water until ready to use. The choke of a baby artichoke is edible after cooking, so you don’t need to remove it.
Heat ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil and the onions in a medium non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat. Cook 8 minutes or until the onions are tender. Add the garlic and cook until it releases its perfume, another minute or so. Season with salt.
Add the trimmed artichokes with the remaining ingredients to the pan. Season with salt. Add enough olive oil to just cover the artichokes. (Don’t fret about the large quantity of olive oil you will be using. The oil will become infused with artichokes and is wonderful for making a vinaigrette.) Cover with a lid and simmer until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a knife. Check after 15 minutes. Larger artichokes may take 30 to 40 minutes.
Allow the artichokes to cool in the oil. Refrigerate when cool. Artichokes will last for several weeks in the refrigerator.