Chicken & Artichokes: A Spring Awakening
By Lisa Golden Schroeder
When I was a kid living in California one of my favorite foods was spring artichokes. Of course, at that point in my food life I was oblivious to the seasonality of when they appeared at suppertime. Only that once they did, we ate them a lot. Then they disappeared from my mom’s menus, to be replaced no doubt by another seasonal (read “inexpensive”) treat. I think the unique, labor-intensive quality of artichokes fascinated me. There was a technique involved in the entire process of eating them, from the best way to tear off the leaves, scrape the tender flesh from the inner tip of each one with my front teeth, and how far I could go into the tinier inner leaves before I got stuck with their diminutive thorns, unveiling the hair choke in the center. Did I use a spoon or table knife to carefully remove every bit of it? Did I greedily take big bites of the prized heart, or cut it into small bites to savor? And the biggest mystery: who first figured out that they could eat what’s basically a big thistle? They must have been pretty hungry.
I’m an April baby, so I consider artichokes to be like a present to be unwrapped. And I’ve been a devoted connoisseur my entire life. So now it’s spring, and the celebrations of earth’s renewal are popping up in the front yard, on our back pond where the birds pair up to populate their new nests that perch on hidden windowsills, and on our plates. I love the rites of spring and seeing the annual procession of newly abundant produce, something we can count on at the same time every year. Baby vegetables, those sweet miniatures that surface so briefly–beets, zucchini, onions, patty pan squash, and absolutely perfect artichokes–are always a delight. This week I’m grabbing those precious “baby” artichokes, actually full grown but with no annoying inner choke, to roast with chicken and potatoes for a warm spring salad. This basic recipe template works beautifully with just about any spring offering–substitute asparagus, small leeks, tiny beets, even wild ramps and dandelion greens if you can get them. Tarragon, garlic chives (all the better if they are in full purple bloom), or a scattering of early garden thyme or lovage, with its celery-like taste, would add the right herbal note to the simple dressing.
The trick to these fist-size artichokes is in the trimming. Take a few minutes to carefully pull away the tough outer leaves with your fingers, then trim around the base and stem with a paring knife and slice off enough of the tops to remove the thorns. Artichokes oxidize like apples, so they turn dark fast–I just slide them into boiling water quickly (some people add a splash of lemon juice, but I usually don’t worry about it). That short simmer starts tenderizing them, then the final roasting in a hot oven with the chicken and potatoes browns them up. There’s a flavor to fresh artichokes that never fails to make me happy!
|CHICKEN ARTICHOKE SALAD with ROASTED POTATOES||
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tarragon or red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
- 12 baby artichokes, tough outer leaves removed, stem trimmed, halved lengthwise
- 1-1/2 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 (14 ounces) Just BARE® Hand-Trimmed Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 8 cups torn curly endive or spring dandelion greens
- Whole Greek olives, if desired
- Whisk dressing ingredients together until well blended. Set aside.
- Heat oven to 425˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add artichokes and potatoes; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Drain well.
- Arrange vegetables on baking sheet; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven; roast 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Nestle chicken breasts in among vegetables; drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Roast 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center and vegetables are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
- Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Arrange greens on plates; top with artichokes, potatoes, and chicken. Drizzle with remaining dressing and garnish with olives.