Artichoke Bottoms with Brown Butter Spinach
In this recipe, fresh, tender artichoke bottoms are stuffed with spinach that is lightly sautéed in tangy brown butter and served with a creamy gratin sauce. This elegant dish makes an excellent accompaniment to most roast meat and poultry.

Yield: 6 servings

6 artichoke bottoms, cooked and kept in stock

Spinach with Brown Butter
1-1/2 lb. spinach, washed
Dash plus 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. grated Swiss cheese

Gratin Sauce
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Dash grated nutmeg
1/3 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

For the artichokes:
To prepare the artichoke bottoms, first remove the stem. Break the leaves off the base of the artichoke, until you have a conical shape. Cut off the central core of the leaves just above the heart, leaving the choke attached; it will be removed after cooking. Trim the base of the artichoke with a small knife or vegetable peeler.

Arrange the artichokes in one layer in a saucepan with a little oil, water, lemon juice, and a dash of salt, and cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes, until tender when pierced with the point of a knife. When cool enough to handle, remove the choke with a spoon. Pour the cooking liquid over the artichokes and set aside.

For the spinach with brown butter:
Put the spinach in a skillet, add a dash of salt, and cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted and soft. Drain. Using a spoon, press to extract excess water. Chop the spinach, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the butter until dark brown in a skillet, then add the spinach. Break up with a fork, and sauté until just heated. Reheat the artichokes in their liquid, and drain. Arrange them in a gratin dish, and spoon equal portions of spinach into them. Press the Swiss cheese on top of the spinach.

For the gratin sauce:
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, and add flour. Mix with a whisk and cook over med. heat for 10 seconds. Add the milk all at once, and mix with the whisk. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and stir until sauce boils. Reduce the heat, and boil gently for 30 seconds. Add the cream, stir, and remove from heat.

Preheat the broiler. Coat the artichokes with the sauce, and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. Heat under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until browned. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf, ©2001 Jacques Pépin