When the cat’s away, the mice do play…
I won’t lie. When John’s away for the weekend on one of his music or camping adventures, I have been known to take a break from cooking and have even mischievously had popcorn, chocolate, or strawberry frozen yogurt for dinner, and of all things, in front of the television. That’s not allowed over dinner in our house! However, I also use this time to work with ingredients that I love, but don’t incorporate often because John doesn’t enjoy them. In this case, artichokes.
For anyone who has previously cooked with artichokes, you’ll know that they are somewhat laborious in the preparation department, not to mention that about two-thirds of them end up in the compost, but what remains, if prepared properly, is utterly divine. And ‘en papillote’ perhaps does artichokes most justice. This cooking method allows the artichokes to steam fully leaving them to bask in their own juices, while the heat from the oven brings a touch of caramelization for a wild combination.
When I removed the parchment package from the oven and opened it up, the aroma that escaped was most inviting. I gave the artichokes a stir and quickly spooned one into my mouth, but not before mopping up some of that luscious juice with a crusty piece of bread! I could have stopped right there. The dish would work as an appetizer on its own or scooped over some fresh ricotta, or even as a side.
Instead, I incorporated it into a pasta dish. There is something sublime about artichokes; they are succulent, earthy, and have a distinct, deep flavour. When prepared properly, they literally just melt in your mouth. Enveloped in sweet ricotta cheese, the broth (infused with lemon, garlic, saffron, and spicy chilli pepper) works its way into the pasta, which when combined with the parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and olive oil just sings, literally!
My only regret was not doubling this recipe… It’s so good, I could have eaten it all in one sitting.
Serves 2 (or one hangry person)
|Artichokes en Papillote|
|Olive oil||3 tbsp|
|Lemon, rind||1 tsp|
|Lemon, juice||1 tbsp|
|Chili, hot, thinly sliced||1|
|Sage, leaves, finely chopped||3|
|Penne, spelt||6 oz (weighed)|
|Ricotta, low fat||5 tbsp|
|Parsley, fresh, finely chopped|
|Pasta water||2 tbsp|
|Lemon, zest||1 tsp|
|Olive oil||Drizzle (for garnish)|
Artichokes en Papillote
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of a lemon.
3. To prepare the artichokes, cut the top one-third of the artichoke off. Then cut the bottom of the artichoke off leaving the artichoke in tact, if possible. Remove all the stiff, dark, outer leaves until you arrive at the inner, lighter, softer leaves. Cut the artichoke in half, remove the inner choke and place in the bowl filled with water covered with a large plate on top to hold the artichokes under water. Artichokes oxidize quickly. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, black pepper, lemon rind, lemon juice, garlic, saffron, water, chilli pepper, and sage. Add artichokes and toss.
5. Cut a large piece of parchment paper ensuring it’s long enough to double over with leftovers on 3 sides to secure the package. Fold the parchment paper in half and create a closed edge by folding one side over about an inch and then again to firmly secure it. Add the artichokes and their juices and then repeat the sealing process on the other two sides. I tied the package four-ways with kitchen twine to ensure it was firmly secured.
6. Place the package on a tray and roast in the oven for 30-35 min (20 minutes on lower rack, and 15 minutes on middle rack) turning the package over once half way through. Remove from oven, allow to cool, cut through parchment paper, and set aside. Be careful, steam escaping is hot.
Pasta with Artichokes en Papillote
7. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Generously salt water, add penne and reduce to a simmer. Cook pasta according to directions, approximately 8-10 minutes. Reserve 2-3 tbsp of pasta water. Drain pasta and set aside.
8. Meanwhile, in a medium saute pan, heat ricotta. Add water to loosen the ricotta and make it creamy. Add cooked pasta, artichokes and their juices and incorporate well. When heated through and just before removing pan from stove, add parsley, parmesan, lemon rind, salt and black pepper. Serve on a dish drizzled with olive oil.