There’s nothing I love like an artichoke. I love them madly, deeply. Always have. I adore them so much that I’m always a bit surprised to realize that not everyone knows how to cook them. Not everyone has even tried them. I don’t mean canned or frozen artichoke hearts; I mean artichokes.
The M.E., in fact, was a convert. I was the artichoke evangelist who preached the gospel of small green leaves and butter and, like any good convert, once he came around he became a true believer. He never fails to check the quality of the chokes when he’s in the store, and gets excited when he finds good ones.
See? Working without a list and without my ever having so much as whispered the word, this is what the M.E. brought back from the grocery store one day.
Biggest, most beautiful artichokes I’ve ever seen. Any bigger and they wouldn’t have fit in the pot–I’m not kidding.
Dr. Evil wasn’t too thrilled with them, but he wasn’t getting one anyway.
They’re surprisingly easy to fix. First, cut off the stems. Don’t throw them out, though!
Then trim the pointy ends off the outer leaves with kitchen shears. Later on, when you’re in a frenzy of artichoke-eating ecstasy, you’ll be glad bothered with this step–there are thorns on the leaves and believe me, they’re sharp.
There will be lots of good stuff for the compost bin when you’re done.
When they’re all trimmed and looking respectable, put the chokes in a pot with about an inch of water and a tablespoon of vinegar. White or cider, doesn’t matter. Why? Hell if I know. This is how my mom always did it.
Put the stems in, too. (Mom didn’t do that, but I discovered that they have a center core of good eatin’ inside, so I do.)
Cover the pot, bring it to a boil, and then turn it down to a lively simmer. Lively. They’ll take awhile. You should plan on 25 minutes or more for medium ones, and a lot more time the bigger they get. These bad boys took an hour. I never allow less than 30 to 40 minutes, just in case, and I don’t start our traditional artichoke accompaniment — broiled chicken — until they’re almost done.
How can you tell when that is, since the time is so loosey-goosey? Simple. Get a pair of tongs and pull on one of the outer leaves. When it comes out very easily, it’s done. And unlike most vegetables, with artichokes a little overdone is far better than a little underdone. You want them nice and soft.
When you’re ready to serve, melt some butter. Pull off the leaves, dip the business end of each one in the butter and scrape them through your teeth. Heaven. Sheer heaven.
I’d show you the whole process, down to dissecting the innards to get at the heart, but at that point we were into eating. Not photography. So when you get through all the leaves, scrape out the hairy stuff in the center — more compost — cut up the heart and dip it in butter, too. Don’t forget about the insides of the stems. The entire stem isn’t edible, but it will be obvious which is the good part and which isn’t.
That’s it. Wasn’t that easy and fun? Aren’t you happy? I’m happy. The M.E. is happy. (Dr. Evil is complaining about the lack of proper treat distribution in this gulag he’s forced to live in, but this is nothing new.) If you’re going to try the recipe, now’s the time. Artichokes are at their very best in the spring, and there are lovely ones in the stores right at this very moment. Waiting for you. So what are you waiting for?
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