Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm all choked up inside...

So a few weeks ago while Meijer-ing with Elizabeth, I bought an artichoke in attempts to bring out the creative cook in me. Two weeks later, I finally had the desire to take it to battle. Using Tyler Florence's recipe, though, was a great motivator. Basically, he's that means his food must be delicious! ;)

Preparing the artichoke was probably the most complicated part of the recipe. I seriously had no clue where to begin. However, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything came in handy, and it can teach you to prep an artichoke with ease. After a quick wash, the pointy parts of the leaves get chopped off (scissors work well for this part), and then the artichoke is sliced down the middle:

And who knew that an artichoke was this beautiful inside?! I must admit, I really was in awe of this! However, after Google-ing "artichoke half", I found that most artichokes are not this fuzzy or purple, which probably means that mine was overripe...which would be totally understandable since I waited so long to prepare it. Oh well. Good things come to those who wait, right? :)

I learned through more Google-ing, that this pretty part is the "choke" of the artichoke. Which mean that the "arti" must be the edible section.......probably not, but we can pretend. I used a sharp knife to dig this out, but a spoon might work well, too. Maybe even a grapefruit spoon, since it has serrated edges. Interesting fact of the day: if allowed to mature, the choke would have turned into a purple thistle. Probably the most delicious part of the artichoke, the "heart", is under the choke.

This recipe has you cook the artichoke in something like a well-seasoned bath involving parsley, garlic, bay leaves, lemons, olive oil, white wine, and chicken broth. Naturally, being a poor college student, I did not have about half of these ingredients, so I used 2 tsps. dried basil and 1 tsp. dried oregano for the parsley and bay leaves. Also, being 2 months away from turning 21 left me white wine-less, so I used an extra can of chicken broth instead. This concoction (with artichoke halves, of course) is simmered on your stove top for 30 minutes.

And there you have it, the humble artichoke. In all its thorny glory. This is a pretty simple recipe, and it definately could be jazzed up a bit, if you desire. The empty cavity is just screaming to be stuffed with something delicious. When my grandma makes these, she puts stuffing in there, as well as between the leaves, and it is crazzzzy good. There are a slew of great recipes on The Food Network website that involve stuffed artichokes, if you are ready to take your artichoke to the next level. Some of these recipes use crab, shrimp, or even ham as artichoke stuffing material...woweee yummy.

Tyler Florence's Steamed Whole Artichokes
Taken from Food 911, "Amazing Artichokes in Lakewood CO"

4 springs parsley
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, cut in half
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 quart chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole artichokes

Put the parsley, garlic, bay leaves, lemons, wine, oil and broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. In the meantime prepare the artichokes.

Wash artichokes under cold water. Using a heavy stainless steel knife, cut off the stems close to the base. Pull off the lower petals that are small and tough. Cut off the top inch of the artichoke and rub with half a lemon to preserve the green color. Alternatively, you may put the artichokes in acidulated water. If you wish, trim the thorny tips of the petals with kitchen shears.

Place the artichokes in the steaming liquid, bottom up. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when a knife is inserted into the base and there is no resistance.

To eat, pull off a leaf and scrape the meat off the tender end with your front teeth. Dip the ends of the leaves in lemon juice and melted butter, if desired. When you reach the center cone of purple prickly leaves, remove it. This is the choke that protects the heart. Now, scrape away the thistle fuzz covering the artichoke heart. The heart is the meatiest part of the artichoke. Steamed artichokes may be served hot or cold.

No comments: