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When I was a child, my parents decided to venture into the business of growing and selling Christmas trees. They opened the San Gregorio Christmas Tree Farm in the early 1970′s. For many years, hundreds of people would come from the San Francisco Bay Area to visit our farm. It was a nice way to grow up… watching kids and their parents wander through nearly 60 acres of Monterey Pine and Douglas Fir seeking the perfect tree to cut down and take home with them. San Gregorio is a very small hamlet just south of Half Moon Bay. The coastline is dotted with small communities that seem to be stuck in a time warp. Many of the hard working cattle ranching families have lived in this area for generations and helped to shape the history rich coast.
Just down the highway from San Gregorio is the town of Pescadero. In addition to its beautiful scenery, Pescadero is known for a small restaurant called Duarte’s Tavern. The Duartes were Portuguese immigrants and in 1894 they settled in Pescadero and paid $12.00 in gold for what is now Duarte’s Tavern. The family has been running it using the same recipes and fresh coastal ingredients ever since. I had the pleasure of going to Duarte’s many times for their very famous artichoke soup, crab Cioppino followed by olallieberry pie. Emma Duarte or “Grandma” as everyone called her, would always make me feel so special when she fussed over me during our regular visits. She was such an institution to this wonderfully interesting part of California, I feel very priviledged that I was able to know her.
When I started looking for their soup recipes, I found numerous versions on the internet. So, I called Duarte’s with what I felt were the closest recipes and they walked me through the process. Since they have been making this for generations, the recipe isn’t a scientific formula but requires an instinct and “a little of this and a little of that” In fact, Emma never wrote down any of her recipes but rather passed them down to each generation through lots of practice in the kitchen. So this isn’t one of those ironclad recipes factored down to the last 1/16 of a teaspoon. But if you read the following tips, you will end up with wonderful artichoke flavor that is very close to a piping hot bowl of soup at Duarte’s.
Using only fresh artichokes (never canned) clean them well and remove all fuzz. Trim the green off around the bottom. As soon as you finish cleaning each one, drop it in water with lemon in it. When you have enough, cook them in hot olive oil al dente. Add garlic and saute’ in olive oil for just a minute or two. Add a little salt and pepper when you begin cooking. Drain. Here is a great link on how to properly prep artichokes. It takes time but is well worth it.
It’s very important to sautee the artichokes in olive oil to preserve it’s color and flavor. Don’t completely cook, just until they are Al Dente. Over cooking can make the artichokes gray and mushy in your soup.
Place the artichokes in a blender or food processor with Organic (or homemade stock) chicken broth. Thicken with cream and corn starch (mix those two first than add to thicken). Add a some butter…at least 1/4 stick. .
Don’t let the soup get too light or white in color. Try to keep it green. The result is a bright beautiful light jade green soup with darker green flecks in it.
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 lb. butter
3/4 tsp. white pepper
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tsp. chicken base
2 tbs. fresh garlic, chopped very fine
4 lbs. fresh cooked artichoke hearts (sauteed in olive oil and garlic until al dente)
2 cups heavy cream
Puree artichoke hearts (use water in blender). Add pureed artichokes to soup pot. Add chicken broth and other ingredients, except cream. Simmer for 1 hour. Slowly add thickening mix to boiling soup. Add cream.