Cream of Artichoke Soup

On my 50th birthday two of my dear friends treated me to lunch at a restaurant in Temecula's wine country. I ordered something I had never tried before -- artichoke soup. It was so delicious that I had to come home and create it myself. This is my version of artichoke soup, but feel free to try any seasoning that you like! This soup is the perfect companion to a salad with Spring greens or better yet, a great beginning to a Thanksgiving or Easter dinner. I first tried making it with fresh steamed Artichoke bottoms but it was a lot of work. The taste, however, is superior to canned artichokes. But, I do used canned artichokes when I'm short on time, and artichokes are out of season. I still get lots of compliments on the soup!

4 fresh artichoke bottoms that have been steamed and cleaned -- also use the meat from the articoke leaves by scraping it into a bowl.

OR use 2 - 14 oz. cans artichoke bottoms drained and rinsed. (Don't confuse these with marinated artichoke hearts.)

1 large onion, diced
1 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white wine
1 clove garlic
2 14-oz. cans chicken stock
1quart half & half
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

In a stock pot over medium high heat, melt 1/2 of the butter and saute the onions and the garlic until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the artichoke bottoms, chicken stock, white wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

In a medium sauce pan, over medium high heat, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and whisk to form a roux. Add the half & half and milk and continue whisking until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, horseradish, marjoram and sugar. Set aside.

Remove the bay leaf from the artichoke pot. Puree the ingredients in the stock pot using a hand held blender. (If you don't have a hand held blender, then process the artichokes and liquid in small batches in a standard blender on low speed. If you choose this method, be very careful as the hot liquid will blow the top off the blender. Return the soup to the stock pot.)

Add the creamed mixture to the artichoke mixture and let the soup simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings by adding more salt and pepper if necessary. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken stock.

To serve, garnish individual soup servings with croutons or a toasted baguette slice.
This soup tastes best when made a day ahead.

Serves 6 - 8.
(Note: You can purchase an inexpensive hand blender at Walmart. It's a must for making blended soups, and the perfect cup of hot chocolate.)

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