Monday, August 25, 2014

Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Fingerling Potatoes with Oregano Pistou & Eliot Ness

Almost 10 years ago I made my very first trip out to the wilds of Redwood Valley, California to meet Sarah's family.  Our relationship was in its fledgling stages and I was determined to make a good - no great - first impression!  Two days in things were going well and I, buoyed by this success, volunteered to make dinner.  Steve, Sarah's Dad, has an incredible heirloom vegetable garden that I had been itching to cook from and so I proposed a meal centered around what we could abundantly harvest from it.  "Do you like artichokes? I have lots of beautiful artichokes!" Steve offered cheerfully.  Sure!  I loved artichokes.   The only problematic part was that I had zero clue as to what an artichoke plant looked like.  Yep, embarrassing as it may be, after nearly a decade spent cooking in professional kitchens, I had yet to encounter an artichoke in its natural habitat.  So is the fate of some young city chefs.  I certainly wasn't going to let Steve know that, though!  So, eager to impress and with vegetable clippers in hand, I marched out to the garden hell bent on returning with artichokes.

The good news for me was that artichoke plants are pretty hard to miss.  Technically thistles, they look like big, prehistoric bushes in varying shades of green with silvery tints.  Lots of spikes, spines and jagged looking leaves with deep purple flowers that look all together unearthly and bristle sharply at the tops.  The bad news is that all those impressive looking spikes are a worthy opponent when it comes to wrestling the actual bud from the stalk.  If you're lucky enough to pick straight from the plant, do so with caution.  Cleaning can be as equally tedious but battered fingers are a small price to pay for the rich, earthy flavor that is a roasted artichoke heart.  That night I prepared a stuffed artichoke feast, watched happily as Sarah's family enjoyed it and then retreated to soak my smarting, artichoke punctured hands in cold water.

Since that first trip to Redwood Valley, I've cooked with artichokes often but roasted hearts with new summer potatoes and tomatoes has become one of my favorite seasonal dishes.  I like to keep it simple and toss the roasted vegetables in a simple pistou of whatever fresh herbs I have available - oregano and parsley, as I've used here, are a particular favorite.

Pistou, in case some are unaware, is a simple Provençal cold sauce, similar to Italy's pesto.   It's very easy to make with just a few fresh herbs, a dab of nice cheese, some good olive oil and a blender (or a mortar and pestle for those who are more dedicated that I).

Be sure to toss the vegetables with the pistou straight from oven.  The pistou will coat and meld with the flavors of the vegetables far better if they're hot.  Additionally, the heat acts to cook the herbs ever so slightly, enhancing their aromatics.

This dish also goes with just about everything.  Grilled chicken, roasted pork, even a light green salad.  I got a beautiful 30 day dry aged, grass fed rib eye from my pal Tom Nendick at West Loop Butchers.  Have I raved about Tom and West Loop Butchers yet?  Yes?  Well, they very much deserve a second nod (and a third, fourth, fifth, etc).  They're great and their meat is amazing!  Steak from them needs no further treatment than a bit of seasoning and a sizzling hot pan.  Seriously, check out that marbling!


But we were talking about roasted artichokes and potatoes and pistou, weren't we?  Had we even gotten to the beer yet?  I didn't think so.   I chose Elliot Ness from Great Lakes Brewing Company.  It's a terrific lager whose residual sugars match the sweetness from the roasted artichoke hearts perfectly.  It also has some roasty malts that make it just as easy to pair with roasted Fall or Winter vegetables so really it's a beer for all seasons.


Roasted Artichoke Hearts and Fingerling Potatoes with Oregano Pistou

For Oregano Pistou:

3  Garlic cloves
1 C. Fresh oregano
1 C. Fresh parsley
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese (shredded)
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil.
  •  With the blender on low, slowly incorporate olive oil by pouring in a small steady stream.  I do not add salt because the cheese is salty (I also add salt to my vegetables).   If adding additional salt, do so sparingly. 

For Vegetables:

3 Large artichokes
1 Lbs. Fingerling Potatoes
1 lb. Assorted Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
5 cloves garlic sliced
1 Tbsp. fluer de sal
1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter

  • Pre heat the oven to 425.  Then start by cleaning artichoke hearts well (never cleaned an artichoke?  Click here)
  • Melt the butter and oil over high heat in a large, oven proof (no plastic handles) sauté pan.  Add the potatoes and garlic to the hot pan.  Sauté for 5 minutes then add the artichokes and continue on high heat for five more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Place the entire pan into the oven for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and tender. 
  • Add 4-5 Tbsp. of oregano pistou depending upon your taste.  Toss and combine well while hot so that all the flavors combine evenly. 

Pairing Notes

Eliot Ness 
Vienna style Lager
6.2% ABV

Notice the deep amber, even butterscotch color of this beer and as well as its creamy head.  The nose gives an aroma of sweet toffee and faint hops for balance.  The flavor up front is of sweet maltiness and is almost nutty compared to the crisp hoppiness in the background.  This is a balanced beer sweet, crisp, roast and etc.

The pairing is both contrast and comparison.   A contrast occurs when opposite flavors work to highlight each other while a comparison happens when like flavors accentuate each other.  The sweetness of the malts versus the acidity and tartness of the tomatoes, for example, creates a welcomed contrast.   This is continued in the sweetness of the malts against the nutty, vegetal flavor of the artichokes.

A comparison can be noted in the roastiness of the malts and how they deepen the layers of the like flavored caramelized vegetables.  Also, the lager yeast provides a mineralic note that compares nicely with the minerality of the artichoke hearts and the earthiness of the fingerling potatoes.  Finally the Noble hops are intensified by the oregano in the pistou because the hops are comparable in flavor and they will elevate the  mild, earthy and herbal notes in each other.


No comments :

Post a Comment