6 medium-sized artichokes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled, coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup (2 oz) hazelnuts (filberts)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup armagnac
Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the top half. Trim off the stem even with the bottom. Then snap or cut off all the tough outer leaves until you reach the pale green, tender leaves. Carefully spread the tender leaves open and, using a small spoon, remove the prickly choke, leaving the inner leaves intact. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into eighths and set aside.
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and celery and saute until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the artichokes, potato and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer until thickened slightly and the flavors have blended, about 45 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, toast and skin the hazelnuts. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Spread the warm nuts on a kitchen towel, cover with another kitchen towel and rub gently against the nuts to remove as much of the skins as possible. Let cool, then chop coarsely and set aside.
Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender or to a food processor fitted with a metal blade and blend or process on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Strain the pureed soup through a fine-mesh sieve back into the saucepan to remove any fibers. Add the salt, white pepper, cream and Armagnac and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to mix well.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately.
Active Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Yield: 8 Servings