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Recipe File

April 2007

Artichokes are seasonal in late winter but don’t get nearly the play they deserve on restaurant menus, let alone on home tables. At Aigre Doux (230 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9400), executive chef and owner Mohammad Islam turns the unapproachable thistle into an elegant and light-bodied soup. The dish takes just minutes to cook: the artichokes braise for a short stint in white wine, then simmer briefly in stock. The waiters pour the soup at the table over seared bay scallops and dress it with bright-green chive oil. At home, braise an extra artichoke and slice it into wedges as an easy substitute for the scallops.
–Jennifer Tanaka

Mohammad Islam’s Braised Artichoke Soup (serves 4)

4 large artichokes, peeled and trimmed
2 lemons
Half a medium-sized yellow onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh whole thyme leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
Salt and white pepper to taste

Optional: 1 teaspoon dry elderberry flower (place the herb in a small amount of cheesecloth and tie it tight with kitchen string; available via mail order through Le Sanctuaire, 310-832-8999) 

To trim the artichokes: Cut away the tough part of the leaves with a knife until you get down to the light-yellow flesh. Cut off the artichoke’s top to reveal the fuzzy choke, and remove it with a spoon. Cut the stem to about 3 inches long, and peel away its fibrous outer layer with a paring knife. Plunge artichokes into water acidulated with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

(1) Sauté onion, garlic, and thyme with butter on medium-low heat until translucent. Place artichokes stem side up in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan; add wine and salt to taste.
(2) Bring to a gentle simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil; reduce heat to medium-low. Braise until the stems are fork-tender, about 12 minutes.
(3) Add chicken stock and elderberry flower packet; bring to a boil. Skim any impurities from the top, then simmer for five minutes.
(4) Remove the elderberry packet and add white pepper to taste. Purée in a blender on high (the mixture is hot and will explode, so work in small batches) and strain through a wide mesh strainer. (5) Serve immediately.

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