Are there any artichoke lovers out there? Tastiest flower that I've ever eaten.
In fact, they may just be my favorite dish. I've been trying my hand at all sorts of preparations, but here's what I've found is the best recipe for me:
1. Start Boiling the Water:
Rinse all of the artichokes that you intend to cook, place them into a large pot together, and then cover them with water. They'll start to float, so only fill with enough water to get them floating. Too much water, and it will take too long to get it boiling. You want enough water to float the 'chokes a few centimeters from the bottom of the pot. Remove the artichokes from the water. Add a couple teaspoons of salt, and enough lemon juice or vinegar so that you can taste the sourness in the water (I've found that you can't really add too much acid). Cover and bring the water mixture to a boil over high heat.
2. While waiting, prep the artichokes:
Cut the stems from the flowers with a knife, leaving about 1-2 cm. Rip off any small petals near the base of the 'choke that are starting to turn purple or don't look healthy. Cut the top of the flower off with a knife, approximately 2-3 cm down. The goal should be to slice into nearly all the petals in the center of the artichoke. A nice 'choke will have a beautiful gradient of colors on top if you do this correctly. With a pair of kitchen shears, continue to remove the top 1-2 cm of every uncut petal around the outside of the choke. Repeat this process for all of your 'chokes, then give them a final rinse to make sure that they're clean.
3. Once the water is boiling, add the artichokes and cook covered for 25-40 minutes.
Once you add the artichokes, the water will cool off and stop boiling. Cover the pot and wait for it to start boiling again, then reduce the temperature to medium-high heat. Turn the artichokes with a spoon or tongs after 10-15 minutes to make sure that they boil evenly. Check them at 25 minutes by inserting a fork into the stem of one of the flowers. If the fork goes in with almost no pressure, then they're ready, otherwise check again in another 5-10 minutes. When done, remove from heat and pull the 'chokes out of the water with tongs. Cover the 'chokes and let them set in the fridge or at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. If put in the fridge at this point, the 'chokes will last for at least a week.
You can dispose of the leftover water from boiling.
4. Halve the artichokes, then "choke" them.
Once the 'chokes have set (cooked all the way to the center), we can finish preparing them. They can be eaten as they are right now, and would be excellent with a little butter. We're going to kick it up a notch, though:
Using a very sharp knife, slice the artichokes in half. Set them upside down on the cutting board and cut them slowly from stem to top with a steady back and forth motion of your knife. Too much downward pressure will rip the petals from the heart, which you want to try to avoid. Slow and steady wins the race, here.
If the artichokes are fully mature, then you will notice small fibers growing up from the surface of the artichokes' hearts. This is called the "choke" of the plant. Simply use a small spoon to scoop the choke off of the heart, leaving behind a nice smooth surface as well as the innermost petals of the artichoke.
5. Marinate and pan sear the artichoke halves.
Feel free to marinate the artichokes the same way you would any meat. A rule of thumb that I tend to go with is half oil, half acid (lemon juice/vinegar), and salt/spices/herbs to taste. Balsamic vinegar or brown sugar can be added/substituted if a sweeter flavor is desired. The simplest marinade I have ever used is just a quick sprinkling of sesame oil. The artichoke halves can be marinated for as little as 15 minutes, as much as several days.
Preheat a skillet on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. The larger the artichokes, the lower you want this heat setting. Add enough oil to cover the pan. You can brown some minced garlic at this point to add to the flavor, or simply add the artichoke halves, face down, to the pan. Let them cook uncovered or covered with a good vent for another 10-15 minutes or so, flipping one every now and then to check for doneness. Once the cut side is browned nicely, flip the chokes over and toss around a bit to make sure the oil/marinade gets all over them. Let them sit on their petals in the pan for another couple minutes, and they're done!
It's definitely a lot of work, but I can promise you all that the reward is well worth the effort.
You can also change up the last step. Once you've marinated your 'choke halves (you can quarter them if you like, though this is a lot harder to do), they can be broiled, baked, grilled, and/or fried. They won't need long for this last step since you've basically cooked them completely already with the boiling process. The last step is all about adding flavor and cooking out excess moisture.
If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think! I am always looking for more suggestions, too. Feel free to ask for clarification if I've been too nebulous, here. Enjoy!