Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steamed Artichokes - Preparation Technique

I still remember my first ever artichoke. I was probably 12 or 13 and visiting my childhood friend Holly in California where she and her parents had moved a few years prior. Her mother prepared herself a steamed artichoke with hollandaise sauce. She asked if we wanted a taste, most likely assuming we would wrinkle our noses and go back to giggling about cute boys.


Boy was she wrong!

We devoured that thing. From the first tentative taste, dipped cautiously in the thick, golden sauce, to the last hedonistic morsel, watery artichoke scented juices running down our arms, drunk with the buttery pleasures of hollandaise... I was in love. 

Years later I was back in California for the PMA conference in Monterey. One of our group excursions was to an artichoke farm. Picture it, row upon row of bulbous artichokes topping their slender stalks, like a vast expanse of little green alien heads craning their necks toward the sun. Beautiful.

You probably know that artichokes have a fine, feathery choke in the center that should be removed before eating. You might know this is because they are a member of the thistle family. But did you know what happens when you leave an artichoke alone to its own devices?

It blooms!


One of my co-travelers was a chef who loves artichokes so much he has them tattooed on each calf... he was awarded the bloom as the most hardcore and fervent lover of the 'choke among us. Just a month later I was back on the California coast, taking the scenic route to Seattle where I would begin a job in corporate catering. With my cousin as my co-pilot I insisted we make a detour to Castroville so I could visit the world's largest artichoke and get a paper dish of greasy, batter fried artichokes (which I actually cannot recommend. I love fried foods but fried artichokes... yelch).


If you're not busy on May 19th and 20th you can head over to Castroville for the Artichoke Festival. Seriously. I would never make this stuff up.

Okay, okay, enough tripping down memory lane. You want to know how to prepare these springtime babies. You will need one medium artichoke for every two people but the following recipe can make one or one hundred artichokes.

Steamed Artichokes
Artichokes
fresh lemon
cutting board
knife
kitchen shears, optional
pot
water
steamer basket

Yup. That's all.  It's more equipment than ingredients. Start by putting your steamer basket in the pot and filling to just below the line of the basket with water. Set on medium heat to start simmering.

Trim about an inch off the top of the artichokes and trim the base to about one inch. With the kitchen shears snip off the thorns from each petal. Rub all cut edges with fresh lemon to prevent browning.


Spread the petals apart a bit and steam upside down  for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. When they are cool enough to handle (you can run them upside down under cold water for a few seconds but be careful not to let them get water-logged) spread the petals apart to find the choke. You're on the right track when the leaves start to get much smaller and possibly (depending on variety) streaked with purple.


These petals will likely begin falling out. That's okay. Keep going and you'll come to the feathery choke.

Using a spoon gently scrape away all the feathery bits until you're left with the tender heart of the artichoke.



Rub the heart with lemon juice to prevent browning and serve immediately with either hollandaise, an aioli, or melted butter and lemon juice.

To eat the artichoke simply pull off the petals and scrape the tender "meat" from the base of the petal with your bottom teeth. After liberally dousing with hollandaise, of course. To eat the tender heart fight to the death with your dinner companions and once you emerge victorious from battle scrape up the last of the hollandaise and chomp away. Bonus points for laughing maniacally while doing so.

Check out a classic aioli from David Lebovitz here and hollandaise from Michael Ruhlman here.

Enjoy!

26 comments:

  1. MMmmm I love artichokes! I've actually never seen them being grown - of course it makes sense that they're on those big stalks, I don't know what I pictured. I love your simple preparation. So good!!!

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    1. I know what you mean. When I first saw them I was thinking, "so THAT'S how they do it..." same thing when I first saw asparagus growing. On the one hand it shows how far we are from the farm aspect of our food. On the other hand... not too many artichoke farms here in Massachusetts!

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  2. Nice plate :) Bunny

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  3. Mmmhmm....hollandaise...artichoke leaves...lemon...heaven!

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  4. Oh this is great, I actually get nervous with making a artichoke myself. I love them though, and could eat them on anything! I want to go to the artichoke festival in Italy someday, that would rock:-) Hugs, Terra

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    1. Oooh... I'd love to go to an artichoke festival in Italy!

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  5. I have always removed the choke before I steam the base and leaves using a spoon. It is messy, and I have to wear rubber gloves or my fingers a stained for days. I'll have to try your version and scrape after steaming. Although I read leaving the choke in while cooking can make them bitter. It sounds like I was misinformed, and I love to do things easier!

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    1. I haven't noticed they are bitter but maybe I'll do a side by side sometime to see what happens. Thanks for letting me know!

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  6. Great tutorial, thanks. I didn't realize artichokes were so pretty when they bloomed!

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    1. I know! I'd love to see a field of blooming artichokes.

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  7. Thanks for the lesson! We've been on a veggie kick lately and last night my wife mentioned she'd love artichokes, but I've never prepared them! Now I know what to do! Thanks doll!

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    1. That's awesome! We love them. There's a local restaurant/pizza place that has them as an appetizer and we always order them. Now that they're more in season I plan on making them at home more often.

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  8. I've honestly never tried to prepare fresh artichokes. But you make me want to try with this post!

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  9. I remember my first artichoke, too. I was 24, in Belgium, and being schooled by my wife in how to eat a whole artichoke at a restaurant called Coeur D'Artichaut. I have been a fervent devotee ever since!

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  10. I think artichokes are the one of the most beautiful veggies. I have never seen them bloom though. Gorgeous!

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  11. I love all of your artichoke photos! I have prepared artichokes before, and they are so worth it!

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  12. Great tutorial Jess! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  13. Amazing post!!!!! Love the blooming photo of the artichoke!

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    1. I know! I'd love to see a whole field of them. But I suppose the artichoke farmers wouldn't like that. ;-)

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  14. I LOVE artichokes, but I've never tried to steam them myself - it seemed to involved. This, however, makes it actually look EASY, so I quickly bookmarked it! Thanks for sharing! Oh, and you already know about your "Liebster Blog" award... :)

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  15. My uncle calls this California junk food. Yummy!!!

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  16. Arichokes make for the perfect spring time side dish, I love your pictures they are beautiful and it's great to see how you get the choke out, I Usually dit my ahnd in the center and try to pull it out, after you get the choke out do you find that all the leavs droop at all?

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    1. The leaves definitely droop somewhat since the choke is partially holding things together. I don't have a good remedy other than to eat fast. :)

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  17. nice idea.. thanks for sharing....

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