Artichokes barigoule and other acid based artichoke preparations can be mouth wateringly good. Unfortunately the fully integrated acidity can become tiresome. As we continue to look for ways to control flavor, this approach, which involves infusing an ingredient with a uniform and expected seasoning becomes less appealing. We were looking for something different.
What we've learned is that artichokes do not need to be cooked in extremely acidic environments. Some acidity certainly helps, though it is used more as a seasoning than as a preservative. Recently we cooked artichokes in a broth flavored with chermoulah and salt. No acidity was added. The artichokes cooked beautifully and the chermoulah seasoned the artichokes throughout while the dominant flavor remained that of the artichoke. We have been working with these artichokes in a variety of dishes, preparations, and ideas.
The first composition united the spiced artichokes with fruity, acidic rhubarb. Since we did not involve acid in the cooking process we wanted to integrate an acid in the dish to balance the chermoulah and sweet earthiness of the artichoke.
We used two preparations of rhubarb in this dish. The first is a rhubarb pudding that is started in a pressure cooker and then thickened with pectin. The pudding itself may be used in both sweet and savory applications. In this case, it acts as a thick accompaniment, almost a fruity mayonnaise for the artichokes. (As for the fruit mayonnaise idea, we will have to delve deeper into its uses. Coleman Andrews wrote about a quince aioli in his book on Catalan food and I believe it is time to revisit the possibilities.) The rhubarb pudding adds richness to a dish, which by all sensibilities should be lean and stark. Rhubarb also has a sharper side, an ability to strike quick and fast, accenting an ingredient and keeping its presence known as a savory element. We incorporated these characteristics by slicing the rhubarb thin and then seasoning it with a few grains of salt and drops of Dr. Pepper syrup. Then we vacuum sealed it to compress the cell walls of the vegetable and accelerate the seasoning process.
With the elements for the dish in place we set about uniting them. We started with a streak of the pudding, showing its viscosity and smoothness. The artichokes were drained from their poaching liquid and arranged on the plate. The shavings of rhubarb were then placed upon the artichokes to allow the diner to taste the combination of ingredients in their own order.
Finally, we added rhubarb vinaigrette that combined stewed rhubarb juice with rose syrup and olive oil. We really enjoy the combination of rhubarb and rose. The rose syrup is delicately floral without the cloying heavines of potpourri. I also enjoy cooking rhubarb with rose hip jelly, though that is one for another day.
How did the dish come together? The elements make sense. The approach is sound. There are a variety of textures, tastes, and most importantly flavors. To our eyes the dish is simple, flavorful and elegant. Could we have done more? Perhaps, though the marriage of artichoke and rhubarb seems quite content without any supporting cast members.