The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

8:43 PM

Food Tip~Taming the Artichoke

Posted by Magic of Spice

Taming the Artichoke

In the previous post where we roasted artichokes, I was asked by a few readers
 both in comments as well as by email, how to work with artichokes. It seems
as though these little guys are just a tad on the intimidating side. But don't
 let them fool you, they are quite easily tamed! 

Now I must tell you upfront that our artichoke models here are both young
long stem artichokes. But as they are what I had on hand, and they are
far from camera shy...they agreed to indulge :)

Both the type of artichoke as well as the age, will help in determining what you
want, or need to do prior to serving artichokes. As I stated before, my roasted
artichokes were prepared with very young long stem artichokes, and these
typically will not need either trimming  of the leaves or "bracts" nor
 removal of the "choke" ( un-bloomed flower portion). So let's explore
 a few types of artichoke that you are most likely to encounter. 

The Globe Artichoke, this is perhaps the most commonly found variety, and is
generally the larger of the bunch. With this variety the stem is usually removed
and inedible. And depending on the maturity will have edible portions 
including, the lower portion of the leaves and the heart. You can identify
this variety by the larger "globe" like shape, that may or may not have 
thorny leaves depending on maturity.

The Baby Artichoke: this is not actually a baby in the sense that most
other vegetables referenced that way. The artichokes are fully matured
but grow at the lower level on the plant, so they remain small. They are
however generally more tender as the other mature artichokes, and
especially when roasted can be nearly completely edible including
the"choke" area above the heart .

The Long Stem Artichoke: this variety is unique in the fact that
the stem is also an edible part of the artichoke. Although the outer layer of
 the stem is tough and should be peeled, or id you are planning to quarter the
 artichoke, it can be eaten in much the same way as the meat portion
 from the leaves. And as it is an extension of the "heart portion" it also has
 that wondrous nutty flavor. This is another, like the baby artichoke that 
when young will not have thorny leaves and the "choke" portion will
usually be tender enough to eat after being cooked. 

There are a few other heirloom or hybrid varieties around, but
the preparations will be pretty much the same and more
based on cooking method and maturity.

The Trimming:

Once your artichoke has been cleaned under cool running water and leaves or bracts
are free of debris. Trim off the top portion of your artichoke about  1/2 inch or so,
this will enable easier handling as well as more even cooking depending on the 
method of cooking chosen. As an example, when being prepared whole. If
you are planning to halve or quarter your artichokes this step can be optional 
when working with younger or baby artichokes.

Now onto the trimming of the leaves or bracts...this step is primarily done for
 presentation purposes, but if you are working with more mature artichokes and 
the thorns are on the tough side, this may be a step you will want to make sure to do.
 Generally though the thorns soften during the cooking process.

It is also easy enough to accomplish with a pair of kitchen shears by
just snipping off the upper 1/3rd portion or so of each leaf. You 
should also remove the randomly scattered lower leaves as they
tend to have little or no meaty potions. 

Once the trimming is complete we can now remove the "choke" portion, 
again depending on the type or maturity of the artichoke you are working with.
It is easy enough to tell if the "choke" should be removed as it will
have numerous hair like fibers just above the "heart" portion. 

You may also remember the floral or flowering artichoke from the previous post.
The artichoke itself is a "bud" with thick arch shaped leaves, also known as bracts. 
These leaves have a meaty lower portion that is edible, along with everyone's
 favorite the "heart". The inner most portion of the artichoke located above
 the heart are the florets, or un-bloomed flower. This portion is what
 we call the "choke" or sometimes refereed to as the beard.

This portion of the artichoke is not edible in your more mature artichokes.
If you have baby or younger chokes these fibrous like hairs will be few
or non present. If you are unsure, this step can be done after you
have cooked your artichokes, especially is boiled or steamed. 

Will will go over removing this portion below when we discus the heart
portion of the artichoke and how to "get to that". 

Getting to the Heart:

If you are just wanting to use the "Heart" of the artichoke, then there are a few
simple steps to follow. But first you should determine your needs and depending
on the age and type of artichoke, what sections will you want to maintain. Not
to mention the proposed cooking method. These will all have a factor in
how you proceed, but the basics are quite simple. 

You will want to trim your stem back just about 1/4th of an inch is you have a
 long stemmed artichoke. Then simply begin removing the outer leaves of your
 artichoke.I find this easily accomplished just by pulling them away from
the body until they snap off.

Continuing to remove the outer leaves until you start to see pale leaves that
are yellowish in color with some purple depending on the artichoke. As
you continue to remove leaves you will notice that they become thinner 
and more tender as you proceed. 

Now you can take a sharp knife and trim around the bottom sides of the 
heart portion, removing any leaf stubs that remain until you have a 
smooth whitish section. 

Now decide exactly what you want to do with the varied edible portions
of your artichoke. Even if you are planning something that uses only the heart
 portion, or the heart and the most tender inner leaves. Keep in mind
that the other portions make great snacks :)

They type of dish or preparation can help you decide just what portions you
want to use and for just what you will want to be using them for. 

Here are just a few common cooking methods for artichokes, and my take on
ways you may consider using up the edible beauties...

Steaming: great for whole, halved or quartered artichokes with the upper most top
portion removed. For more mature artichokes, the "choke" potion can be removed
 prior to steaming or after, if needed. Then served with a dipping sauce. 

Boiled: another great one for whole artichokes, in fact my preferred method for
 more mature artichokes, with the "choke" portion removed after cooling. 
Then again served with a nice dip or sauce.

Roasted: this is my favorite for younger artichokes or baby artichokes,
typically halved or quartered with the entire artichoke being utilized. In
fact with some of the smallest baby artichokes the majority if not
all of the leaves are tender enough to eat whole. Serve seasoned
or with a dipping sauce if desired.

Grilled: this is a method I just love, and done much in the same way as
 roasted. And like roasted, these could be done whole, but I prefer
to halve or quarter them. 

Note: remember the "trimming" portion is optional in all methods of preparation. It
 makes for a nice clean presentation, but not a requirement unless you feel that your
 artichokes thorns are very sharp...and in that case I would probably return the 
artichoke as it may be a bit past it's desirable maturity mark :)

Here are a couple of previous posts to get you started if you have yet to
dive into the lovely world of The Artichoke!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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