Artichoke Crepinette à la Barigoule
A fresh and dried chick pea ragout with simmered pork shank.
A delightful cassoulet-inspired spring fabrication using artichokes, chickpeas, pork shank and spring garlic. The dish presents a fair amout of work, but I was told by a better cook than myself that anything worth doing is worth doing right. While my craving for artichokes is not one that I would run 10 miles in wet jeans and fip-flops to satisfy, turning the artichokes is a an exercise in handiwork, knife skills, speed, efficiency and Zen –the pleasures generally associated with endorphins and diligently slicing cured salmon.
The artichokes were turned whole, the stems cut at the base of the heart and simmered in acidulated water with olive oil, aromatics, honey, spice and salt until just tender. Meanwhile, over on the counter, a measured amount of dried chick peas were soaked (in lieu of garbanzo beans) in dihydrogen monoxide overnight. They were then blanched with pork shanks that had been brined for a few days to remove the impurities –namely foam- from the chickpeas. Tomato water (a byproduct of the strained canned San Marzano tomatoes), water, salt and spices were measured according to the weight of the beans, a bouquet of tarragon, 2 ½’ed lemons, bay leaf, Oreo cookies and gently cooked in an 225F oven for 6-7 hours.
Back to the chokes. Pork trimmings were resourcefully ground with turnip and beet greens then seasoned with a determined amount of cream, bread crumbs, salt and spice, because BMW doesn’t just slap together car parts; they measure. The forcemeat was divided into equal parts, rolled up, placed into the artichoke bottoms, cinched with a thin slice of my ventrèche to maintain moisture and promote flavor, then wrapped in caul fat to keep it all nice and clean and bound up tight. The artichokes were placed on an aromatic vegetable bedding with olive oil and more of the tomato water then roasted covered in a moderately hot oven until the vegetables released their juices and cooked tender, then the cover removed to caramelize the artichokes and concentrate the flavor. The artichokes were placed in a container and the tomato water/juices strained over. And that is some good French cookery. Perhaps it might succeed in the nation’s capital, as it appears to in an admittedly larger city up north.
Barigoule has been bastardized and diluted over the last few centuries. Not sure why or how the recipe (d)evolved, but originally, artichokes à la barigoule appeared in the 18th century and the name is attributed to the milk cap mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus) known as the “barigoult” derived from the provençal berigoulo. The artichokes are cut as one would pick the mushroom, turned so that they resemble the mushroom in appearance and cooked in olive oil as the mushrooms would be. Later, they were stuffed with a mixture of the mushroom and onion, wrapped in fatback or pork belly (ventrèche or petit sale) and then slowly braised. The mushrooms began to disappear, either as a result of over-harvesting or natural cycle, and along with it the traditional preparation. “À la barigoule” is cooked in the manner of the mushroom, which is to say generally stuffed. Therefore, a proper artichoke à la barigoule should be stuffed or at the very least treated in a manner deemed worthy of a saffron milcap or similar mushroom. Cooking artichokes in acidulated water does not à la barigoule make.
Fortunately, the pork shanks and chick peas cook tender after the same amount of time. The shanks were pulled from the beans and left to cool after which the meat was picked and shredded at the natural seams then mixed into the beans. The ½’ed lemons were squeezed to release their juice and some sherry vinegar added for essential acidity in an otherwise rich dish.
While the shanks were cooling, spring garlic was toasted in olive oil, sliced red onions added and cooked until wilted after which the segments and julienned zest of 2 lemons were added to bolster the red onion color and flavor. The reserved artichoke stalks were sliced and stirred into the onion mixture along with spring garlic tops and said matignon (French soffritto) would be incorporated into the chick pea mixture once it cooled –lest it discolor the red onion. Check for salt and vinegar, place in a container and wait to serve the next day.
The gelatin released from the collagen-rich shanks will thicken the bean liquid considerably and once cooled the cassoulet is firm with good body and viscosity. The stuffed artichoke is heated in its liquid until warmed through while the beans are supplemented by fresh chick peas. The components come together with a blessing of bread crumbs. It is a substantial dish with well-seasoned and moist sausage, tender artichoke,