A Different Benedict

This is not your typical Benedict, which to me can be formal and boring.  Like vanilla cake with butter cream icing- mostly boring.  Here an artichoke’s soft belly cradles a poached egg, securing it for sauce and a crunchy topping with aged cheese.  This is Artichoke Benny.

It took me a while to appreciate artichokes.  I’d quickly dismiss the thought of them due to the hassle factor.  But they’re not really a hassle once you get the hang of working with them.

The heart of the choke is a perfect canvas for filling. If you’re a purist, you can start with a fresh, well-armored choke, taking it apart to get to it’s heart.  If you want the easy route purchase a jar of artichoke hearts.  But I can tell you, the effort is worth the taste difference.

I’ve made hollandaise sauce for this dish, which takes it over the top.  But a tahini based or Caesar salad dressing is a nice alternative and adds a slightly different twist.

Find the largest artichokes you can for this dish.  Their peak season is over but you can still readily find them.  They peak again in October too.

Artichoke Benny for Two

Ingredients:

2 large artichokes, stem removed, all leaves removed and choke removed to end up with the hearts (see note below for cleaning artichokes).

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Water, for simmering

2 poached eggs

Hollandaise sauce

Gremolata topping

Method:

Prepare artichokes:

Put artichoke hearts in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the two hearts.  Add minced garlic, olive oil and salt, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Simmer 10 to 12 minutes, or until a knife is easily inserted into the heart.  Remove and keep warm.

While the hearts are simmering, make your gremolata and hollandaise.

Make the gremolata:

Put 2 tablespoons of plain breadcrumbs in a bowl.  Add the zest of ½ of a lemon, 1 finely minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon roasted sunflower seeds, 1 packed tablespoon minced parsley, 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Regianno and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.  If the mixture seems too dry, add additional olive oil to moisten.  (This is a semi-dry topping to sprinkle over your dish.)

Make the hollandaise (yield: ¾ cup, perfect for two people):

2 egg yolks

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Juice of half a lemon

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl.  Heat the butter in a small pot.  It should be hot but not boiling.  Let the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pot.  Pour the liquid or clarified butter off of the top into a bowl.  Discard the milk solids.

While whisking the yolk, slowly pour a little butter into the yolk to emulsify the mixture.  Continue adding the butter slowly while whisking until the butter is all gone.  Mix in the lemon juice, a little salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as desired.  Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Poach the egg:

Fill a small pot with 2 to 3-inches of water.  Add a splash of vinegar.  (Helps set the outside of the egg so the white doesn’t bleed into the water as much.) Bring the water to just before boiling point, then turn it down to simmer.  You want the water to barely bubble at all.  Crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin.  Lower the bowl to the surface of the water and tip the egg out.  Immediately add the second egg.  Cook for 2 ½ to 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and carefully place each egg onto a folded paper towel.  (I put the paper towel on top of the egg then flip it over.)

Putting the dish together:

Put a drop of hollandaise in the middle of a small plate.  Put the artichoke heart on top.  Place a poached egg in the middle or ‘bowl’ of the artichoke.  Drizzle hollandaise over the egg, zigzagging back and forth and overlapping just a little bit onto the plate.  Sprinkle the gremolata on top.  Adding a sprinkling more of parmesan is nice too.  Serve immediately with your favorite toast or place the artichoke hearts on toasted polenta disks as in the picture above.

How to clean an artichoke for this dish: With a sharp knife, cut about 1-inch off the top of the artichoke.  Cut the stem off.  Peel away all the leaves until you get to the tender pale yellowish green leaves.  Using a spoon or melon baller, remove the leaves and choke (hair like strands above the heart).  Immediately put the heart in lemon water to keep the choke from oxidizing.

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