Dear Mike: Artichoke lovers, rejoice! We loved this rich, creamy soup from Carmel's own Hog's Breath Inn, which touts its "Old West ambience" with scenic fireplace murals, mounted hog heads and paintings of Clint Eastwood. A simple ingredient list nicely brings the artichoke to the forefront, the flavors nicely rounded out with a touch of sherry. I can guarantee there won't be an empty seat at the table when you serve this.
Hog's Breath Inn's artichoke soup
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 2 to 4
Note: Adapted from the Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel by the Sea, Calif. We tested the recipe using artichoke hearts canned in water.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, divided
1/2 onion, diced (about 1¼ cups diced)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons sherry
2 pounds drained artichoke hearts
1 1/3 cups chicken broth, more as desired
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup cream
1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot heated over medium-high heat until hot, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and peppers, and continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the sherry and stir, scraping any bits of flavoring from the base of the pot. Stir in the artichoke hearts, chicken broth and sugar. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt, or to taste.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, loosely covered, for 30 minutes.
4. While the soup is simmering, make a roux: In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly rain in the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the roux turns a light brown color, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This makes about one-fourth cup roux, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The roux will keep, up to 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated.
5. When the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, uncover and slowly whisk in the cream. Thicken as desired with roux, whisking in 1 tablespoon at a time; you may not use all the roux.
6. Blend the soup using a stand or immersion blender, and strain if desired. Return the soup to the pot, adjust the thickness with additional roux (to thicken) or broth (to thin), and taste once more for seasoning. This makes a scant quart of soup.