SPRING ARTICHOKE RAGOUT WITH HAM AND SHERRY
Spring in Spain brings many pleasures, not the least of which is this delicious stew. There are as many versions as there are cooks: Some add peas, other potatoes. The stew can be flavored with the smoky notes of jamon or a touch of pounded fried almonds. In any case, the stew's sweet essence of spring remains the same. Feel free to substitute leeks for the onions and fresh shelled peas and/or sliced asparagus for the fava beans (tender asparagus and peas should be added in the last ten minutes of cooking). You can also use six to eight tender baby artichokes instead of the larger ones. There's no need to pare them; just trim off the stems and the leaf tips. If you use baby artichokes, cook the stew about ten minutes less.
This isn't your bright-green, flash-cooked al dente California version of the Mediterranean. To be really good, sweet, and authentic, the vegetables have to braise for quite some time. What's lost in color is gained in taste. Serve the stew on its own as a first course, as a light lunch, or as a side dish with roast lamb, chicken, or fish.
Serves 4 to 6 as a First Course
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1 1/2 cups shelled fresh fava beans (about 1 1/2 pounds unshelled), or 1 1/2 cups soybeans or peas, thawed if frozen
4 medium-size artichokes, pared down to the heart (see Note)
1 lemon, cut in half
5 tablespoons fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 piece (3 to 4 ounces) Serrano ham or prosciutto, finely diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium-size Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
3 to 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, or water
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
||Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the fava beans or soy beans and cook until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
Drain the beans in a colander and place it under cold running water until cool enough
to handle. If using favas, gently peel the skins off the beans. Set the beans aside.|
|2.||Drain the acidulated water from the artichokes and cut each
heart crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, including the stems. Rub the slices with the cut side of the
lemon halves to prevent discoloring, then set aside.|
|3.||Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion and ham and cook, stirring, until the onion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add half of the garlic
and the sliced artichokes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Partially cover the pan and continue
cooking until the artichokes are almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes, adjusting the heat so that the artichokes
cook without browning. Add the potato and green beans and cook for 1 minute. Add enough stock to barely
cover the vegetables and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer the
stew, partially covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the beans and cook
until tender, about 5 minutes longer. |
|Note: Preparing Artichoke Hearts|
Choose as many artichokes as you need, then cut two lemons in half. Partially fill a bowl of water and add
the juice from one of the lemons. Drop the squeezed lemon halves into the water. Working with one artichoke
at a time, remove about half of the outer leaves by pulling them away from the artichoke until they snap
off. Using a sharp knife cut off and discard the the top half of the artichoke. Place the artichoke on its
side on a cutting board and firmly grab onto the stem with one hand. Holding a sharp, serrated knife in the
other hand and cutting away from you, remove all but the tender, yellow-green inner leaves, following the contour
of the artichoke and leaving only the heart. Using a spoon, scoop out the choke and the small purple leaves
from the center. Trim all but a half-inch off the stem. Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, trim off
the tough, fiberous parts around the base of the artichoke. Scrape the remaining stem with a vegetable peeler.
As you work, keep rubbing the cut parts of the artichoke with the cut side of one of the lemon halves
to prevent the artichoke from discoloring. Place the artichoke hearts into the lemon water until ready to use.