Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How to cook Artichokes

We're in the midst of the holiday bonanza! With Halloween down, have you started to think of your Thanksgiving menu? For some reason, artichokes have been my new favorite go-to vegetable (I always love artichokes, but they're usually a special occasion veggie due to the cooking time required and seasonality of them). But I can absolutely imagine them in a Thanksgiving feast.

In any event, they do require a bit of prep work and also an hour to cook. I think that puts a lot of people off. But, they are worth it! Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever met someone that doesn't like artichokes. If you haven't ever made them before, or it's been a while, check your market and pick some up! I strongly urge you. Deee-licious!

Hello, my pretty... here is an artichoke fresh from the market:

Ready to get started? Here is the cooked, ready to be served, artichoke we are working towards:

What you will need:

2 large artichokes (green, with very little browning of the leaves)
1 large stock pot and steam tray
Kitchen scissors
4 tablespoons of butter
1-2 lemon wedge slices (optional)

Wash the artichokes under cold water, pulling the leaves out a big to allow the water to get in deep. Turn over onto a dry rag or shake most of the water off.

On a cutting board, slice off the stem of the artichoke, leaving 1/2 inch on the bottom. Remove, by peeling, the bottom first layer of leaves if they are overly small or brown.

Next, with a sharp knife, cut off the top of the artichoke, removing about 3/4 of an inch. Then with your kitchen scissors, cut the sharp tips (about 2-3 cm) off of the remaining leaves of the artichoke. You do not need to dig into the center of the artichoke for the inner leaves, only cut the ones you see on the outside of the artichoke.

Pour water in your large stockpot up to the steam tray level (about 2 inches), and add the lemon wedges. Insert your steam tray, and place the 2 artichokes on top, facing down (so the stem will face up). If they can't face down, it's no problem. Lay them on their side.

Bring water to a boil, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until you can easily pull a bottom leaf from the artichoke. Be careful to ensure your pan never goes dry!

I also test the leaf by trying to eat it (see below), to know if it's done. I get frustrated when I under cook an artichoke, but I haven't ever had a problem with overcooking. So I typically let mine cook for around 50 minutes, sometimes even a little longer, testing as I go.

When the artichokes are done, remove with tongs (they will be hot!) and place upside down on a dish towel to remove excess water.

Divide the butter between 2 ramekins and put in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to fully melt (be careful, as butter likes to pop and can make a mess if left alone in your microwave for too long!).

Serve the artichokes with butter. Will feed 2 people, as each should have their own artichoke. Otherwise, you risk a revolt at your dining room table.

Now... how do you eat an artichoke? I didn't take any pictures of that, and probably couldn't describe it nearly as well as Smitten Kitchen does, so head on over to check out her explanation. She also gives some alternate methods of cooking artichokes, and a mayo dip vs. butter. The best method I have found though, and I've tried many, is to steam in a pot on the stove. It might take an hour, but again, they are worth it.

Guten appetit!

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