How can we impart the flavor of crispy fried artichokes onto a braised or steamed artichoke? The flavor profile created by roasting and frying has a depth and a rich character, which is often lost in many artichoke preparations. In fact, the flavor may not be lost, rather it is simply overlooked. We spent some time fine tuning an artichoke dish today. The artichokes were cleaned and peeled (with a vegetable peeler...I knew I would learn something watching Top Chef). We then pressure cooked the artichokes in a Chartreuse broth for four minutes. The artichokes became soft and tender with a delicate herbal note from the Chartreuse. What was missing was the distinctive flavor of searing, roasting, frying, the Maillard reaction. Since we left a number of the tender leaves on the artichoke during the pressure cooking we now had cooked leaves without a purpose. I opted to fry the leaves, starting them in cold oil, until they were golden and crisp. Not a new thought, really inspired by our recent fried potato skins.
When the leaves were fried, I tasted them, and really liked the flavor. Unfortunately, these crisp delicacies were not beautiful. I ground the fried leaves into a fine crumb and ended up with greasy fried artichoke crumbs, rich in flavor and still not very appetizing to look at. The artichoke flavored oil which leached out of the ground leaves gave me an idea. I added an equal amount of tapioca maltodextrin by weight to the greasy leaves and ground the two together. The tapioca maltodextrin did its thing and absorbed the oil from the leaves and acted as a vehicle to carry the flavor of the fried artichoke leaves. The fine powder has an intense aroma and when it is eaten it releases all the flavor of just fried artichokes across the palate.
The fried artichoke powder became the ideal accompaniment to our pressure cooked artichokes, allowing us to feature two taste profiles of the same vegetable in one dish. The artichokes are accompanied by a horseradish and coffee custard, compressed Asian pear-apple and parsley leaves. While this was not the initial vision, the final result was well worth the meandering journey.
We must not forget to utilize the flavor of fried artichoke leaves and other fried things in different ways. Today we made a powder highlighting their rich flavor, although the caramelized thistles could also be a great base for a broth or sauce. Imagine fried artichoke consomme served with scallops or fried chicken braised chicken. The idea is still new to us so the sparks are small. Hopefully the idea will become fuel for a bonfire of new inspirations.