Artichokes Anyone???

If you are from California, then I can only imagine that cooking artichokes comes as second nature to you as cooking fried green tomatoes does to me.  Neither of them is hard to prepare, yet I have never cooked artichokes.  Sure we’ve eaten them plenty of times out at restaurants or in dips, but it wasn’t until my friend Ferrell, who owns Café Dufrain down on Harbor Island, put them on her menu in the appetizer section that I thought to myself, “I am missing out on something here.”  So I picked up two over the weekend and I decided to give it a shot.

 I turned to Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, because she does a great job explaining step by step how to cook different vegetables. 

Here’s what she says:

Cooking an artichoke:

“A fresh, desirable artichoke is heavy and compact, with fleshy, closely clinging leaves of a good, green color all the way to the tips.  The stem is also fresh and green.

Remove the stem by bending it at the base until is snaps off, thus detaching with the stem any tough filaments which may have pushed up the heart.  Break off the small leaves at the base and trim the bottom with a knife so that it will stand solidly upright.

Lay the artichoke on its side and slice ¾ of an inch off the top of the center cone of leaves.  Trim off the points of the rest of the leaves with scissors.  Wash under cold running water.

Rub the cut portions of the artichoke with lemon juice and drop it into a basin of cold water containing 1 Tbl of vinegar per quart of water.  The acid prevents the artichoke from discoloring.

Drop the prepared artichokes into boiling salted water (1 ½ tsp salt per quart of water).  To help prevent discoloration, lay over the articholes a double thickness of cheesecloth; this will keep their exposed tops moist.  Bring the water back to the boil as rapidly as possible and boil slowly, uncovered, for 35 to 45 minutes.  The artichokes are done when the leaves pull out easily.

Immediately remove them from the kettle with a slotted spoon and drain them upside down in a colander.  Boiled artichokes may be served hot, warm, or cold.”

 Eating an artichoke:

“If you have never eaten an artichoke before, here is how you go about it.  Pull off a leaf and hold its tip in you fingers.  Dip the bottom of the leaf in melted butter or a prepared sauce.  Then scrape off its tender flesh between your teeth.  When you have gone through all of the leaves, you will come to the heart, which you eat with a knife and fork after you have scraped off and discarded the choke or hairy center growth.”

And there you have it!  I made Hollandaise as the dip to accompany the artichokes and it was delicious!  They were different and fun for us to eat.  I only wish that the leaves had been a little fleshier.  Maybe next time when they are in season I will find us some big hefty ones just calling my name….

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