Introduction: Artichoke Hearts & Eggs Hollandaise

Mmm...creamy, complex tasting hollandaise sauce over poached eggs nestled in an artichoke cup...This Instructable is my first ever, and it is an entry into the Le Creuset brunch contest. A little nod to their French origins.  I love Le Creuset and have always wanted to own some ever since a roommate graciously let me cook with hers nearly a decade ago.

I love this dish all on its own, however it has been suggested to me by my friends and the internet that possible additions to this delicious combo are bacon, smoked salmon or caviar.  It is a bit labor intensive, so I usually try to save it for special occasion brunches, or when I have company coming for one of my brunch parties.

A few things to note: one, I promise, this dish looks harder than it is; two, it is best to look at this dish as having two stages: the prep/cooking of the artichoke and then the other step, poaching the eggs and making the hollandaise; three, I serve one jumbo artichoke and one jumbo egg per person, and two regular artichoke hearts with two large eggs per person; and four, do not leave your hollandaise sauce unattended on the stove, or even on a hot burner, for more than four seconds without whisking.

I like to serve this dish with a prewashed salad mix tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon and a little salt (preferably coarse ground sea salt).  It makes a nice, light side to a rich dish.  Another thing I like to serve beside it are my easy breakfast potatoes (which will be my second I'ble ever).

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

Clockwise, from top right (these ingredients are for one to two people and makes 2/3 of a cup of hollandaise sauce; for a larger amount, simply multiply the recipe as needed and allow for more cooking time for the sauce)
1. 1 jumbo artichoke & 1 jumbo egg for each person, or two smaller artichokes with two large eggs per person.
 2.  3 egg yolks (sauce)
 3. 2 eggs
 4. 1/2 stick of butter
 5. juice from 1 lemon
 6. Seasonings: Cayenne (or other chili powder or hot sauce), salt & pepper

Step 2: Trim the Artichoke Leaves & Wash the Artichokes

Peel away the leaves growing out of the stem and the first outer ring or so, until you get down to the outer ring that is roughly the same color as the other leaves. With a scissors, trim the tips off of the outer artichoke leaves, taking the spiny part off (about 1/4" off the tip of the leaves).  Using a knife, chop the spines off of the leaves in the center. Wash thoroughly. 

Step 3: Set a Pot to Boil for the Artichokes

Set a pot on to boil  for the artichokes; a medium to large pot filled to 3" from the top, or get your steamer ready for the artichokes.  In either case, add the juice from half of your lemon to the boiling water, to retain the bright green color of the artichoke.

Step 4: Chop the Stems Off of the Artichoke Heads

Try to make the bottom surface of the head as level as possible when chopping, otherwise the dish will sit on the plate funny.  Chop the end off of one stem, quarter it and parboil it in your artichoke water for five minutes, then slice up the stem quarters.  If your artichoke stem is particularly woody, use a peeler to strip away the top dark green layer, down to the pale green pith in the center.

Step 5: Put 1/2 Stick of Butter in Saucepan With Sliced Stems

Put the pan on the lowest heat setting possible, and let the butter melt and slowly become infused with artichoke flavor.  You can let this gently cook, stirring every five or so minutes, until the artichoke heads are cooked through (about 20-25 minutes for the regular sized artichokes and 30-35 for the jumbo artichokes).  If you turn up the heat on the butter, watch it carefully; you cannot make a successful hollandaise sauce with browned butter, so it's important not to let it burn.

Step 6: Add Artichokes to Boiling Water

Boil or steam until tender enough that you can easily pluck one of the inner leaves out using a set of tongs.  This image is not mine because I didn't get a decent picture of the artichokes in the water and I hope it is ok to use a stock photo. Source: http://www.trueplayerflavor.com/tag/artichokes/

Step 7: Separate Whites From Yolks

Using two medium sized mixing bowls, gently crack the egg all the way open over the side of one, taking care to retain the yolk in one half of the egg.  Transfer yolk from one shell half to another, as you do so draining more of the white into your bowl.  Whisk yolks together in the other mixing bowl with a dash of cayenne, a sprinkling of salt and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Step 8: Remove Artichoke Heads From Water

Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then carefully pluck off all of the leaves and set them on a platter (they can later be used to sop up excess hollandaise sauce on your plate).

Step 9: Remove Furry Chokes and Set on Plates

Using a spoon, gently scrape off the furry part and the "roots" attached to it (they look a tiny bit like giant follicles) and set the now-cleaned artichoke hearts on the plate.

Step 10: Remove Stems From Butter

Pour the butter and stems mixture through a fine mesh sieve, into a small pot, both to clarify the butter and to remove the stem pieces.  Using the back of a spoon, make sure to squeeze excess butter from the stem pieces through the sieve.  In my case I used the side of the container and a fine mesh spoon, but the effect of squeezing the butter out is the same.

Step 11: Poach Your Eggs

    There are two ways to poach eggs. One is by adding two tablespoons of white vinegar to a pan of boiling water, then gently immersing the eggs in the water; this method does not require any special equipment, but can be a little tricky--especially if you didn't add enough vinegar to the water (vinegar will enable the white, or albumen, to mostly stay together, instead of fly everywhere in little strands and make a mess of your pan and your dish).  
   
    The other is to use egg cups (I purchased mine for 5USD from BB&B): grease the inside of the egg cup, then gently crack the egg into it; slide a spatula under the bottom of the cup and use the spatula to gently lower the egg cup into 2 - 3 inches of boling water in a medium sized pot with a tightly fitting lid; cover them.  

    Either method you use, cook the eggs until the white is mostly firm, but the yolk remains runny, or however you/your guests would prefer them to be cooked.  The dish tastes the best with the yolk still runny.
   
    If you are cooking for multiple people and you are increasing the volume of your hollandaise sauce, a trick to keep the eggs from overcooking is to transfer them to a bowl of ice; then, when you're ready for them, re-submerge them for a second in boiling water to reheat them.

Step 12: Top Artichoke With Poached Egg

Step 13: Make the Hollandaise Sauce

Add the yolk mixture to the butter in the small pan and turn the heat on to the lowest setting possible.  Whisk together.  Keep whisking softly, making sure to incorporate the stuff on the bottom and sides of the pan.  When the the mixture begins to thicken and start to look glossy, after about five minutes of solid whisking, add two tablespoons of warm water, one at a time, and whisk into the mixture.  When done you will be able to see the mixture has turned a paler yellow and is glossy, indicating the butter has been incorporated.   Do not leave the mixture unattended over the heat, or you will be able to observe what happens in this photo (I swear, I messed it up on purpose, so you guys could see what it looks like!) ^_~

Step 14: Pour Sauce Over Artichokes

And serve immediately or as soon as possible.

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