Dish Deconstructed: Char-Grilled Artichoke at La Cigale
Jonathan Swift said that, but he could have just as easily been talking about the artichoke, a member of the thistle family with spiky little thorns that looks like the Jolly Green Giant's fist. You gotta give credit for at least a little bravery to whoever figured out that if you steam or boil or grill or fry this unlikely-looking vegetable, then you can scrape off the tasty ends off the dull-green leaves with your teeth and, after removing the nasty, fuzzy choke, can eat the tender, delicately flavorful heart.
At Delray Beach's classy, Mediterraneanesque La Cigale, they take preparation of this humble thistle to a new level, first halving and cooking it, then giving it a bath of infused olive oil and throwing it briefly on the grill, which imparts a smoky character that heightens its naturally sweet, vegetal flavor. As a final touch, a handful of Parmesan shavings and the classic French remoulade sauce (standing in for the typical mayo or drawn butter) are an inspired bit of gilding the lily, or in this case, the thistle.
La Cigale's Char-Grilled Artichoke
1 large artichoke, leaves trimmed, stalk peeled, cut in half lengthwise
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/3 C. plus 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 small clove garlic, minced or rubbed through microplaner
Few Parmesan shavings
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. remoulade sauce
Rub one tablespoon of olive oil over both halves of artichoke, then drizzle with lemon juice and cook in covered pot fitted with steamer until done, about 15-20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, dig out the hairy "choke" and discard.
In a small skillet, warm remaining olive oil with pepper flakes, lemon zest, garlic, and salt and pepper to infuse flavors in oil. Do not let burn. Remove from heat and pour over both sides of artichoke halves. Let sit at room temperature until ready to grill.
Make remoulade according to recipe and refrigerate.
Heat outdoor grill or cast-iron grill pan until a drop of oil sizzles on the surface, then place artichoke halves facedown and grill until lightly browned. Give halves a quarter turn to make crosshatch grill marks and remove from heat.
To serve, spoon remoulade in artichoke's cavity, scatter with Parmesan shavings and serve with remaining remoulade on the side.