This Elegant Dish Is Easy To Prepare Ahead — And Mustard Vinaigrette Makes It Sing
Although artichokes are available in our supermarkets year round, their peak season is spring. In St. Louis, where I live, there are still plenty of prime specimens available in the local markets. So before the season slips away, why not feature artichokes one more time in a special meal?
This dish makes a delicious main course, which is how we usually serve it at the Kitchen Riffs household. It also pairs well with an assertive meat course. So if a 2-inch thick grilled porterhouse or other festive meat is on the menu for your weekend Father’s Day feast, this would be a terrific appetizer.
And once you taste it, this elegant-but-simple dish will become a regular at your house.
Recipe: Artichoke Scoops with Poached Scallops
This recipe has three distinct steps: cooking the artichokes; poaching the scallops; and whipping up the vinaigrette. Because the dish is best served chilled or at room temperature, these steps can all be done ahead of time, and with assembly and plating at the last minute. None of the steps are difficult or time consuming — although if you haven’t worked with artichokes before, you might want to budget some extra time. They’re not difficult to prep for cooking, but they can be a bit daunting at first.
This recipe is adapted from Julia Child’s Julia Child and More Company, which was written in conjunction with her 1979 TV program of the same name. It’s now out of print — which is too bad, because it contains some great recipes that aren’t in her other cookbooks.
This recipe serves four people as an appetizer, or two as a main course. It can easily be doubled (essentially, you want 6 ounces of scallops for each artichoke).
For the Artichokes:
- 2 large artichokes
- lemon slices
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallots (a little more is good too; you can substitute scallions, but shallots have more flavor)
- ½ cup dry white vermouth (I recommend the Noilly Pratt brand)
- ¼ - ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces scallops (I suggest sea scallops in size 30-40, which means a count of 30 to 40 scallops per pound)
- ½ tablespoon finely minced shallots (you can substitute scallions, but they’re not as flavorful)
- salt to taste (start with ½ teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon (optional)
- 1 - 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (to taste; start with 1 teaspoon and add more if necessary)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or wine vinegar, or a tablespoon of each
- 6 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
- black pepper (freshly ground)
- hot pepper sauce (optional)
- minced parsley or chives for garnish (optional)
- The first stage of this recipe involves prepping and cooking the artichokes. For cooking them, you will need a pot that is large enough to hold two submerged artichokes. Fill it about 2/3 full with water, place on burner, turn to high, and bring water to boil.
- While the water is heating, rinse each artichoke under the kitchen faucet. Hold the artichoke with its top up so the water is directed between the leaves (some people call them “petals”). Cut off the artichoke stem, leaving about ½-inch. Rub cut base of stem with a slice of lemon so it doesn’t discolor. If there are any loose leaves at the stem-end, pull them off. With a sharp knife, cut off about an inch at the tip of the artichoke (see picture above). Rub the cut tip with a slice of lemon so it doesn’t discolor. If the ends of the leaves are prickly (they usually are) use a pair of kitchen shears to cut off the sharp tips. Rub each leaf with lemon to prevent discoloring.
- Once the water is boiling, add salt (about tablespoon per gallon). Drop in artichokes, adjust to slow boil, and cook for 30 - 45 minutes. Start testing for doneness at 30 minutes. When an artichoke is done, you can pull a leaf off easily and the “meaty” part at the base of the leaf will be tender as you scrap it with your teeth. Also, the base of the artichoke itself will be tender – a paring knife will feel very little resistance when you insert it. I usually find it takes about 35 minutes to cook artichokes.
- Meanwhile, poach the scallops using the instructions in this post. The whole process of scallop preparation and cooking takes about 15 minutes. Then you should let the scallops sit in their poaching liquid for about another 10 minutes. At that point, if you’re preparing them ahead, just place the scallops and their poaching liquid in an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready for them. Otherwise, drain the scallops and proceed with the recipe.
- When the artichokes are done, drain them (put them top-down into a colander). When cool, slice in half lengthwise. Remove the tender leaves at the core (they have little or no meat, and aren’t worth eating) and remove the choke using a teaspoon as a “knife” to scoop it out. (See picture below.) You can do this step ahead. Artichokes can sit out at room temperature for several hours.
- Next, prepare the vinaigrette. (Although you can do this several hours ahead, it’s better when made right before you use it. If you do make it ahead, store it in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, and be sure to whisk it up to reform the emulsion before you use it.) To make the vinaigrette, start by placing minced shallots, salt, optional tarragon, and mustard in a bowl. Whisk together. Add lemon juice and/or vinegar, and whisk to combine. Add oil in a thin stream, whisking all the while, until an emulsion forms. Taste, and season with pepper, more salt if needed, and optional hot sauce.
- When ready to assemble and plate the dish, add scallops to the vinaigrette. Gently stir to coat the scallops, and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes so the scallops absorb the vinaigrette flavor. Meanwhile, place each artichoke half on a plate, scooped-out side up. Divide the scallop/vinaigrette mixture evenly among the 4 artichoke halves, filling the scooped out center with the mixture. Spoon the excess vinaigrette onto the serving plates so diners can use it to dip their artichoke leaves.
- Dust scallops with a garnish of parsley or chives (if using), and serve.
|Artichokes with and without the choke|
- Although you can prepare the components of this dish ahead of time, you don’t want to assemble it until right before serving. That’s because the vinaigrette can separate, which makes it unpleasant. (That’s also why, if you prepare the vinaigrette ahead, you’ll want to whisk it up again to reform the emulsion.)
- In this recipe, the vinaigrette serves both as a sauce for the scallops and as a dip for the leaves and heart of the artichoke.
- You can substitute hollandaise sauce for the vinaigrette if you’d like. That would be another terrific flavor combination.
- If you don’t want to poach your scallops, you could sauté them. If you don’t like scallops at all, you could substitute shrimp (in fact, shrimp are in Julia Child’s recipe, but I think scallops work better).
- How to eat an artichoke? If you’ve never eaten one before, here’s how to do it: Use your fingers to tear off a leaf, then dip the fleshy (base) end of the leaf into the sauce. Then place the fleshy end of the leaf in your mouth, fleshy side down, and pull through your teeth to scrap off the meaty pulp. Discard the leaf and repeat. When you’ve consumed all the leaves, you’re left with the artichoke heart, which you cut into pieces, dip in the sauce, and consume. Ocean Mist Farms has webpage with video on eating artichokes that the uninitiated may find informative.
- What to do with the discarded artichoke leaves? I usually serve this dish on a plate large enough so the diner can pile the leaves on the same plate when they’ve finished scrapping off the pulp from each leaf. Sometimes I provide small individual plates for the same purpose. When it’s just Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and me at table, we’ll often just put a large common plate between us and both use that for our leaf discards.
- Artichokes can be messy to eat and your fingers can get sticky. Finger bowls aren’t my style (maybe for this dish they should be), so I always provide my guests extra napkins when serving this course.
Guilty as Charged
I first encountered an artichoke in a French restaurant in Morocco when I was in my early 20’s (Morocco used to be a French protectorate, and French culture remains a big influence there). The artichoke was served room temperature in a pool of hollandaise sauce – and I was intimidated. How was I supposed to eat this thing? Fortunately, I was dining with someone who knew about artichokes. After being jeered at for my ignorance, I was given a quick lesson in eating them. I’ve been in love with their flavor ever since.
Artichokes are also a big favorite with Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. And she loves scallops, so this recipe is one of her fave raves.
Speaking of Mrs. K R, I think she was born knowing how to eat artichokes. And she never needs an extra napkin or – heaven forbid! – a fingerbowl when she eats them.
Unlike some of us, she might say, looking at me.
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