June 6, 2010

Confit artichokes in rosemary & garlic infused olive oil


I’d like to dedicate this post to my brother, as he really loves artichokes and where he lives he cannot get hold of them…No, this is not to make him crave them but a “taste” of what he’ll get when he comes to visit soon!!!(it’s about time!;) )

Anyway, artichokes are one of those vegetables that I can either love or hate. Often, to avoid oxidation, discoloration or browning (however you want to call it) they are cooked in acidulated water. This, to my taste, makes them too sour and hinders their delicate flavour. To find other “ways” to overcome this, like with anything, we must start asking ourselves “Why?” “Why does this happen?”…and here’s where my always reliable McGee Bible comes to play (or any other source from those scientists devoted to molecular gastronomy like Hervé This).

Artichokes brown when cut as we tan when exposed to the sun (well, those of us who have a skin type that tans!). It is basically a protective system, which is based on the interaction of two elements: 1) phenolic compounds present in the cells of the vegetable, in this case, the artichoke and 2) enzymes that oxidise these compounds also present separate to the former in the undamaged cells. When the cells are damaged, the enzymes oxidise the phenolics in the presence of oxygen, turning them into the brown surfaces we see, whose true mission is to attack invader’s (insects or microbes) own enzymes and membranes.


I hope this isn’t too much of a geeky bore to you, but I think it’s interesting to understand that if we know how to act on the enzyme to avoid this reaction, we’ll prevent discoloration. So, a few of the ways are: 1)acidic conditions (that’s why we use the lemony water) as the enzyme slows down. 2)Anything that reduces the availability of oxygen like a) immersing in cold water or b) coating the surface with an oil or fat. Finally, 3) using another element with antioxidant properties, like ascorbic acid (vitamin c) or I’ve learned crushed parsley also does the trick.

So, if cooking in water, use cold water, a tbsp of flour blended in helps prevent oxidation too. But instead of the usual lemon juice, I prefer to add some shredded parsley and a drizzle of olive oil that will form a layer over the water. But, in this case, since as we cut each artichoke it goes directly into an oil bath, it doesn’t need anything else to prevent browning and the taste and the mellow texture…are fantastic!!


This method, slow-cooks the artichokes, bringing out their subtle flavour and making their astringency milder. Furthermore, if confit in a lightly infused oil, they integrate the flavours. I think rosemary and garlic are an excellent match, but if you’d like to try any other aromatic herb, go ahead…lemon thyme, thyme, lemon rind, peppercorns…up to you! To finish it off it needs little more to round the dish, a bit of shaved or grated parmesan, freshly grated pepper and salt flakes like maldon. Just that, to me is perfect…nothing more but to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth artichokes and make sure you have a good bread at hand to dip in the flavoured oil!!!!


Confit artichokes in rosemary & garlic infused oil

(enough for 4 people as a starter)

1,5 kg artichokes ( I had 10 large ones)

~4 garlic cloves

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

maldon salt (or any other flaked salt)

freshly milled black pepper

parmesan (to shave over)

olive oil to cover, mild flavour (I used about 400g)

Place some of the oil in the pan you’ll be using to confit the artichokes so when you start cutting them, you have enough oil to cover them to avoid oxidation. It’s best if the pan is thick bottomed, as though it will be cooked over low heat, there will be no hot spots to colour the artichokes directly above.


Before you start peeling the artichokes, I strongly advice you to get some latex gloves on! Otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting it off your hands, and most likely will go to work with brown fingers! Also, just place on your board a shopping size plastic bag…as most of the artichoke is waste! That way, you’ll avoid ending up with artichoke pieces all over your kitchen!

Now, start peeling the artichokes outer leaves until you get to the light inner ones. There’s no way to tell you exactly when to stop exactly, as it depends on each artichoke, for some you need to remove more leaves than for others. (Take a look at the photos below).

Then, make an incision halfway across the end of the stem, so you don’t cut it completely off, and you can pull toward the flower. I find this is the best way to determine exactly how much to remove, how much is the “fibrous” bit, without wasting or leaving any annoying hard bits behind. Do this along the entire stem.

Next, with a small paring knife cut from the stem toward the flower to make a smooth link between the two (some people manage better the other way around, from flower to stem, try which works best for you). Repeat around the entire artichoke.


Finally cut the greener outer half of the artichoke flower (also determine how far in to cut depending on how green it is in contrast to the lighter less fibrous bit). Then cut this in half lengthwise.

Some artichokes have a tough bit, “the choke”,  in the centre, which is really hard and not nice to find as you eat. This only happens in mature specimens, so young ones barely have any florets in that area, or like in this case, they are soft enough to be left in. Still, here’s a photo of what to remove.


Place the artichokes as you go inside the oil. It doesn’t have to cover them completely but almost. Still, as you go, immerse them to coat them with oil all around, so they don’t brown.

When all the artichokes are done, add the mashed whole garlic cloves and the rosemary sprigs (you can add these to the oil right at the beginning) and season with some maldon sea salt. It may seem like it makes no sense to season as it is cooked in oil, but the artichokes do absorb it, so don’t forget it!.

Just before placing over the heat make a parchment paper cover to cook them. Cut a square piece, with at least, the diameter of your pan. Fold it in half, then in half again and again until it’s a very acute triangle.

Place the tip, the inner part, over your pan, in the center to measure how long it should be and cut the excess paper. Also, cut a small piece in the tip, to make a whole in the center of the circle once it’s opened


Place it over the artichokes and start heating the oil over low heat. Once it simmers, bring it to the minimum so it cooks very slowly (in my induction from 1-11, 3 was more than enough)…some people even do this in the oven, but it takes longer.


They will take at least 10 minutes to cook (if they are small and tender)..Mine took 20 minutes to be soft enough to be pierced with a skewer with a bit of resistance and I then let them cool in the oil to finish off cooking them. You could finish them until very soft, but then, it’s very likely that they’ll disintegrate when you lift them off. So I advice you cook them until almost ready and let them continue cooking off the hob with the residual heat from the oil.

They keep best immersed in the oil in the fridge, but you could strain them a bit and of course, keep the extra flavourful oil for other confits, for using in other recipes, like for sautéing mushrooms, or for ratatouille or even salads.

To use, strain them a bit first…


Then, simply place them on a dish, season with maldon salt and freshly milled pepper and shred or shave parmesan or other similar cured cheese over them. I like to drizzle a tiny bit of lemon juice and grate a pinch of lemon rind over…but without the latter it’s delicious as it is!



Anonymous said...

Gracias por el recuerdo. El otro día estaba haciendo una lista mental de lo que quería comer a mi breve paso por Madrid, y las alcachofas estaban en primero lugar, así que has acertado de pleno: se me hace la boca agua... no te digo lo que puse en segundo y tercer lugar para que también lo adivines!;P

Colette said...

Pues tendré que pensarlo un poco. Sé de algo que ya he publicado, pero por publicar...a ver si antes de que vengas acierto!!Sino, tu pide por esa boquita ;) P.D. jamón ibérico y queso no valen!!!:b

Anonymous said...

Pity I´ll have to pass this one, looks simply delicious.But as I am your brother´s neighbour, I´m also unable to get artichokes here.But I recently made the guacamole with the plantain for a special lunch and my guests were stunned, and the creme brulé (though a more classic version) with same results.And I´m waiting for that wonderful recipe of yours, the strawberry gazpacho.I tried it once long ago and have not forgotten it.Thanks for the great work, it´s truly inspiring¡¡¡

Colette said...

Thank you so much!!It's great to hear (well, read!)that someone has tried the recipes with good results!Don't worry...the gazpacho is comming soon!!!I actually prepared it last week but had no time for taking any photo :( but if not this week, the next one!I really appreciate your comments, really!

Anonymous said...

Gracias por tus recetas y comentarios son excelentes y me están devolviendo la ilusión por cocinar.

Colette said...

Gracias a tí por decirme eso...porque es la mejor motivación para seguir con este proyecto, que además de "diario gastronómico" sirva para que la gente se anime a probar cosas, pierda el miedo a experimentar y tenga pasión por comer bien y disfrute elaborándolo en casa! Que recuperes la ilusión por cocinar o que alguien se anime a ello es lo mejor que puede pasar! Asi que, de veras, gracias por compartirlo!

Carmen said...

My brother rang just to talk about this recipe (he´s an artichoke lover).He´s made it twice already and second time added more garlic and reduced the amount of rosemary .He also adjusted the cooking time (his artichokes took 50 minutes to cook to his taste).And then he declared this one of the best dishes he had ever eaten.As he is no writter, I´m doing the job..while waiting to try the recipe myself.

Colette said...

Great to hear that he likes them!Definately, flavourings should be adjusted to personal preference...About the cooking time, wow, that's a long time! Maybe because the season for artichokes is at its end, for artichokes are one of the few vegetables I like to leave fairly soft, not al dente. Only when I confit them covered in oil in the oven (max 150ºC, usually 100ºC), same technique,they take that long. But whatever works is right!! Thanks for sharing as the same may happen to others and can take advantage of your comment!

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