The foggy coastline of Northern California is artichoke country. Like finding small hole-in-the-walls that serve clam chowder in New England, here one can sometimes find local diners that sell delicious artichoke soup.
I first developed a taste for artichoke soup on frequent trips to Pescadero Beach during college. So when I found this recipe in the New York Times, I couldn't resist.
Over the years we've changed it up a little bit, mostly reducing the butter and cream. The soup is wonderfully rich, smooth, and creamy.
- The hearts from 5 large artichokes (see How to trim an artichoke)
- 5 Tbsp butter, divided
- 1 medium size leek, white-and-light green parts only, sliced and rinsed (see How to Clean Leeks)
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots (or yellow onion, if shallots aren't available)
- 8 oz of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 12 cups of chicken stock (if cooking gluten-free, use gluten-free stock) or vegetable stock (for vegetarian option)
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 4 sprigs of parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup of cream
- Salt to taste
Prepare the artichoke hearts:
Peel off the leaves from around the artichokes until you get to the thistly choke in the center.
(Note, we save most of the leaves to steam separately and eat dipped in melted butter or mayonnaise. Why waste perfectly good artichoke leaves?)
With a small knife, remove the thistle choke part and discard. Cut or peel away the tough outside skin of the stems and discard. You can keep one to two inches of the stem on the artichoke heart. Longer stems you can discard.
Slice the hearts or chop to a quarter inch thickness.
Cook the artichoke hearts, leek, garlic, shallots in butter:
Melt the butter in a large, thick-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add the artichoke hearts, sliced leek, garlic, and shallots. Cook until tender, but not brown.
Add potatoes, stock, herbs, then simmer:
Add the peeled diced potatoes and the stock. Wrap the herbs (bay leaf, thyme, parsley) and peppercorns in cheesecloth and place in the pot. Increase the heat to bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, for 1 hour.
Purée the soup, push through sieve:
After an hour, remove and discard the herbs. Purée the soup and use a rubber spatula to push it through a fine mesh sieve. At this point you can make ahead and refrigerate until ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve, heat the soup and stir in the remaining butter and the cream. Season with salt to taste and serve.
Adapted from an artichoke soup recipe from Ilo Restaurant in The New York Times, Feb 8, 2004.