Friday, May 21, 2010

A Real Artichoke--About as complex as a Ziegfeld show?

As the title suggests, this time around I decided to make artichokes, a vegetable that I've found few people I know have ever eaten whole.  Most people I know have only encountered the heart of the vegetable, and usually only as a topping on pizza or as a dip ingredient.  But artichokes on their own are delicious, and while slightly labor intensive, not impossible for the average person to make.  And it's not just because I'm Italian, both my dinner guests enjoyed them too.  Even if you think you don't like artichokes, eating them this way makes them taste very different.  So try it!

How to Prep an Artichoke:

There are numerous videos on this, just google how to prepare an artichoke if you're still unsure.  Here's how I do it, as taught by my grandmother.  I'm using miniature artichokes here, this may be easier your first time around.

You'll Need:
Sharp knife
Melon baller/or spoon equivalent

Rinse off the artichoke and use the scissors to trim the stems.
Using the scissors, trim the tops of the leaves until you reach the final leaves in the center.
Place the artichoke sideways on a cutting board and slice off the top.

Use your fingers to stretch and separate the leaves until the center is more open. Watch out for the "choke," the spiky center leaves can hurt if you're not paying attention.
Using the melon baller or its equivalent, scoop out all the purple stuff in the center.  Again, watch your hands.

Where to go from here...
Apparently the French steam the artichokes upside down, without first digging out the purple center and opening the leaves.  They eat them dipped in melted butter as well, which is how I first had an artichoke.  But my grandmother's recipe involves stuffing them with homemade bread crumbs and I highly recommend this.

To make the bread crumbs you'll need:
About a loaf of fresh white bread (Ciabatta, Italian, baguette, etc)
3-4 large cloves of garlic (more depending on taste)
1/2-1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsps olive oil
  1. Boil about1 1/2 inches of water in a large stockpot.
  2. Rip up the bread into small pieces into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Chop or press the garlic into small pieces and add it to the bread along with the olive oil and the cheese.  Toss everything together.
  4. Stuff the bread crumbs into the artichoke's center and in between the leaves, filling as much as you can.
  5. Place the artichoke stem side down in the pot, leaning again the side.
  6. Cover the pot and let steam for at least 30 minutes, until the leaves are tender and dark green.

Last, but not least, is my section on how to eat an artichoke. Read carefully.
Pull one of the leaves out (it should easily break away if it is cooked right) and bite down on the end with the "meat."  This is the white fleshy part near the stem.  Hold onto the leaf and grip it using your teeth, before pulling the leaf back out of your mouth.  DO NOT EAT THE LEAF.  Apparently some people do, but you're really not supposed to.  It is gross and will seriously discompose your digestive system.  You want the white, meaty part of the artichoke.  You should be able to use your teeth to scrape off the white part.
 When you finish the artichoke, the center contains the "heart" probably the part you're most familiar with.  You can eat that, and it should taste all cheese-bread-garlic yummyness.  I also enjoy dipping the leaves in butter before eating  the white part.  Yet another example of how cheese and butter can make anything good.
    If you're still confused, here is a helpful video on how to eat artichokes.  But again, don't eat the leaf.  According to family legend, my step-grandfather once went out to dinner with a co-worker he disliked.  They ordered artichokes, and the co-worker popped the leaves in his mouth, chewing and swallowing them.  "Hey, these are pretty tough!" he said.  And my grandfather didn't say anything, just gleefully laughed on the inside.  Don't make his mistake!
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    1 comment:

    1. Thanks for the "how to eat an artichoke" video. Very helpful (although sort of weirdly sensual at the same time).