Tuesday, January 03, 2006

CHILLED ARTICHOKE SOUP

2 12- to 14-ounce artichokes
6 c chicken stock
¼ c strained fresh lemon juice
1 c cold water combined with 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp flour
1 c light cream

With a small sharp knife, trim about 1/8 inch off the stem end of each artichoke and peel the tough outer skin from the remaining stem. Cut the artichokes lengthwise in half, drop them into a 4- to 5-quart enameled or stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan partially and simmer the artichokes for 20 to 30 minutes, or until their bases show no resistance when pierced with the point of a small sharp knife.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes to a cutting board. Cut or pull off the green artichoke leaves, return them to the saucepan, and simmer partially covered for 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, cut or pull the thistlelike yellow leaves and hairy inner chokes away from the artichoke bottoms and discard them. Trim the artichoke bottoms, drop them into a bowl, and pour the water-and-lemon-juice mixture over them. Set the bottoms aside; they can safely wait at room temperature for 2 or 3 hours.

Scoop the green leaves out of the stock with a slotted spoon. With a teaspoon, scrape the soft flesh from each artichoke leaf. Return the pulp to the stock and discard the scraped leaves. Simmer the stock, partially covered, for 30 minutes more, then puréethe mixture through a food mill set over a bowl or rub it through with a fine sieve with the back of a spoon.

In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam begins to subside, add the shallots and stir for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 or 3 minutes to remove the taste of raw flour. Stirring the mixture constantly, pour in the artichoke purée in a slow, thin stream and cook over high heat until the soup comes to a boil, thickens slightly and is smooth. Stir in the cream, simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, then taste for seasoning. Pour the soup into a bowl and cool it to room temperature. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours, or until the soup is thoroughly chilled.

Just before serving, rinse the artichoke bottoms briefly under cold running water, pat them completely dry with paper towels and cut them into ¼-inch dice. Pour the soup into a chilled tureen or individual soup plates, scatter the pieces of artichoke bottom on top and serve at once.

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