I like artichokes. Maybe it’s that I like the process of peeling the leaves and pulling off the meat with my teeth. It’s oddly satisfying. But, not quite as rewarding as working your way to the heart of the artichoke.
It’s a process for sure. Each layer of prickly leaves has subtle changes. First the tough outer ones. Then the layers get progressively more and more tender until you finally reach the choke. Next, you very delicately scrape away the hairlike choke with a paring knife to reveal the real prize. The heart!
My mom taught me how to do this. I was pretty young. Barely old enough to be left alone with a paring knife. This could easily have been earlier rather than later. I didn’t have a ton of supervision when I was growing up.
But, I was a quick study. After a few inartful attempts, I had the process down pat. Even to the point of trimming up the stem so you had a nice, symmetrical, perfect, artichoke heart. Ready for eating!
My memories of eating that artichoke heart also include a homemade hollandaise sauce. Now, I never really considered my mother to be a gourmet chef. She fed us well. But, cooking for her seemed very utilitarian. So, serving those artichokes with hollandaise rather than just a plain, simple melted butter seemed pretty elevated. Even as a kid I realized that. I’ll admit, I had absolutely no idea what hollandaise sauce was. It was yellow, salty, lemony, and of course, delicious!
Now as an adult, seeing the hearts jarred or canned on a grocery store shelf doesn’t leave me with that same feeling of discovery that I had when I was young. But, I still wonder who’s eating all of those leaves!...
Over at Chef Paul Mattison’s restaurants, Mattison's Forty-One (7275 S Tamiami Trail, 941-921-3400) and Mattison's City Grille, (1 N Lemon Ave, 941-330-0440) you can experience a little bit of his childhood remembrances of the artichoke every day. His dish, Artichokes Esther-Style is a tribute to his grandmother. It seems Paul’s grandmother may have known her way around the kitchen a little better than my mom. But, the end result is the same, the introduction of something new and delicious.
Chef Mattison was gracious enough to have given us permission to reprint his family recipe so that you can give it a spin in your own kitchen. Or, if you’re feeling a little lazy and want to let the pros make it for you, it’s available at both Mattison's 41 and at City Grille.
If you’re interested, we made a short film to illustrate just how easy it can be for you to make this delicious dish at home. Have a quick look…
Just in case you didn't watch the movie (you really should!), here’s a look at how my attempt turned out when I made it at home.
And, just for comparison purposes, here’s what you’ll get if you order Artichokes Esther-Style at either Mattison's 41 or Mattison's City Grille.
I think I did pretty well. Not bad for an untrained home cook!
Here are some tasting, cooking, and plating notes for you.
The artichokes in the restaurant version were crunchier. I think they were deep fried vs. pan fried. They tasted great though. So, it's really a preference thing. If you've got a home deep fryer, go for it!
The restaurant version "powdered" the finished dish with parmesan cheese. Mine needed a lot more parm at the finish.
I used WAY too much piccata sauce. They just sauced essentially the middle of the dish. I went a little crazy I guess. I tend to do that sometimes.
Mattison's used whole artichoke hearts in their dish. I followed the recipe and used halves. Either would be fine. Again, preference.
I nailed the taste though. The dishes tasted very similar.
THE VERDICT. CAN YOU MAKE THIS SUCCESSFULLY AT HOME? YES!!
If you would like to try your hand at this relatively easy and tasty dish here are the full instructions. Bon Appetit!
My grandmother, Esther, never believed in throwing anything away. Once the artichoke hearts were dipped in the egg wash and cooked in olive oil, she would scramble the leftover egg wash in the same skillet, creating slightly green eggs. The two served together were truly Esther-Style.
12 artichoke hearts
½ cup flour
1 Tbsp water
½ cup flour
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup olive oil
Halve, rinse, and drain artichoke hearts. Dredge in flour then dip in an egg wash made by whisking the eggs with the water. Combine the remaining flour with the Parmesan cheese and dredge the artichoke hearts again, shaking off excess coating. Pour oil into a large skillet and preheat to medium-high. Add artichokes, cut side down first, and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Turn and cook for 2 more minutes until golden brown. Serve with Piccata Sauce and garnish with chopped basil and grated Parmesan cheese.
Piccata Sauce Esther-Style Ingredients:
1½ Tbsp olive oil
4 tsp finely diced shallots
2 Tbsp capers
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup white wine
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp seeded, diced tomatoes
10 chiffonade medium basil leaves
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat olive oil in a sauté pan to medium-low. Add shallots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add capers and garlic and cook for one minute. Add wine, increase heat to high and reduce by half. Reduce heat and add butter. Once melted, add tomatoes, basil, cheese, and lemon juice. Season to taste.
Serves 1 (or sharable for 2)
If you make this dish at home (and you really should give it a try), please tell us how it turned out by leaving a comment at the bottom of this newsletter. Better yet, send us a photo. We may reprint a few of them at a later date. You’ve already seen how my attempt turned out. Let's see how you do!
This "Make it at Home" recipe feature is a work in progress. I'm trying to decide if I should visit the restaurant before or after I make my dish?? This time I went after. I think the outcome is more of a surprise that way.
A note (and a request) - If you own or are a chef at a Sarasota restaurant and would like to have your recipe featured in a future edition, please get in touch with us through our Facebook page or our dineSarasota.com website. We want to cook your dish!!
As usual, here are a few links that we think you’ll find useful.