Friday, May 14, 2010

I Miss Rome

There are several versions of this dish on my blog alone, but with good reason. Carciofi alla Romana were one of the first authentic Italian dishes I really mastered, having had much exposure to them from all my time in Rome–in particular, the little restaurant we called "The Green Door" that was around the corner from Palazzo Cenci where school was. Open only for lunch, with no sign, newsprint tablecloths, and presided over by a hard-working yet amiable older couple, it offered superb and frill-free Roman cooking at student-friendly prices. My standard outing there was a pair of artichokes and a bowl of homemade fettucine with butter and Parmigiano with a half carafe of the house red plonk to wash it down. Then I would often enjoy a solid nap, but strictly for cultural reasons.

And artichokes and beans have a sympatico for sure. I enjoy making them together whenever possible. I got the beans going in the pressure-cooker with homemade bacon, fennel, onion, garlic, herbs, carrot, a radish and its greens, and chicken stock, and let it hiss belligerently while I diligently bent and snapped all the leaves of the thistle flowers. A quick trim, a good gouge with a spoon to de-choke, and into a pan with water up to their shoulders and a hearty glug of olive oil to cover the water. Simmered on medium for about half an hour; the key is to listen. When the pot starts to sputter indignantly, it's time to pay attention. Remove the lid, stab a fork in the thickest part to check for tenderness, and lower the heat a bit. Let them fry in the oil after the water is gone until they get good and caramelized. That is the key. It also seems to make artichokes more wine friendly, which is nice, since they're widely regarded as wine-killers. All the gorgeously perfumed oil gets poured over the plate when all is assembled. Wilted pea shoots with garlic make a tasty garnish.


Mo said...

YUM! I don't know if you've posted this previously (I only just started following you), but could you share how you make homemade bacon?

I wish I could duplicate this recipe based on your post alone, but there are a couple things I think I need to look up to make sure I understand what you are saying. Since I love every single ingredient in this I think I'll have to attempt this very soon!

Zoomie said...

I've been eating artichokes since I was a child and never have I seen a recipe that sounds as deliciously killer as this one. Gotta try it, and I happen to have some good beans right now _and_ it's artichoke season out here. Thanks for posting this!

peter said...

Mo: If you search bacon on the blog, you'll find a bunch of posts that describe the process. Basically I cure it in miso, salt, and sugar for a week or so and then smoke it to an internal temp of 150˚. The artichokes are simple; the only trick is in bending the leaves right so you leave the good part attached to the heart when you pull them off.

Zoomie: I know, but it's fading fast. We can't get them locally, so they're a luxury.

Anonymous said...

I clearly need to seek out the Green Door.
We had some excellent carciofi alla romana the other day in Da Felice in testaccio.... some of the last around here.
When the pot starts to sputter indignantly - my favourite instruction for a good long while

peter said...

Rachel: I'm pretty sure it's not there any more. It was on Via Santa Maria de' Calderari, facing Piazza delle Cinque Scole. The door was actually brown, but it was right next to Santa Maria del Pianto, which has a big green door.

If it is gone, try the carciofi alla giudia just up the road at al pompiere.

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