Artichoke soup is a taste of spring test

2/24/2011 14:50:57 PM

I don't know why artichokes make me think of spring. Maybe it's because they resemble a beautiful blossom about to open, or their pretty color holds the promise of what's to come.
This edible thistle, called globe artichoke, is available fresh year-round and can range in size from large, which is great for stuffing, or in the baby size, which is wonderful sauteed and served atop pasta.
But processed artichoke hearts and bottoms are even easier to use as there's no prep involved. I usually keep a supply of frozen artichokes to use in sauteed dishes as well as a jar of marinated artichokes for salads.
The frozen artichokes came in pretty handy last week when a colleague encouraged me to try this soup. The earthy artichokes combined with the meaty mushrooms created a wholly satisfying first course for a meal I prepared with my sister.

The name "barigoule" is a French dish of braised artichokes, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The editors of Cook's Illustrated translated the dish into this wonderful soup.
Be sure to use frozen artichokes as the marinated ones are too oily and the canned ones, too watery, resulting in an unpleasant mess.
A touch of cream and a pinch of tarragon makes this a great spring soup — even if the blossoms are still a long way off.
Artichoke Soup a la Barigoule
From "Cook's Illustrated Soups Stews & Chilis."
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 (9-ounce) boxes frozen artichokes, thawed and patted dry
• 12 ounces white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced thin
• 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4 inch thick, and rinsed thoroughly
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
• 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
• 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 3 cups vegetable broth
• 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 2 bay leaves
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or basil leaves
• Salt and ground black pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Lightly brown the artichokes, 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, cover, and cook until they have released their liquid, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mushrooms are dry and browned, about 5 minutes longer.
Stir in the leek and butter and cook until the leek is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, anchovies, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and vegetable broth, smoothing out any lumps. Stir in the parsnips, bay leaves, and half of the browned artichokes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook until the parsnips are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Off the heat, remove the bay leaves. Stir in the remaining browned artichokes, cream, and tarragon, and let stand off the heat until the artichokes are heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Serves 6.


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