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How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

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Artichokes are easier than you might think.
 
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Step 1: Rinse and trim

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Find some good-looking artichokes. I usually get a bunch of the small cheap ones instead of the big expensive ones, because the leaves are usually younger and more delicate. Brown on the outer leaves is fine- it's caused by frost, which can help concentrate the flavor. Mold, and black or mushy spots, are to be avoided.

Wash and drain your artichokes, then chop the top layer of prickly spiny bits off. While trimming isn't absolutely necessary, the lack of spines will be appreciated when you peel the artichoke later. It can also help facilitate more even steaming.

Especially with the larger, coarser artichokes, some people prefer to use scissors to trim off the spike from lower leaves as well. I see this as another good argument for buying the smaller, younger, cheaper artichokes which rarely have spikes below the top leaves.

Step 2: Steam

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Bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop your artichokes into the steamer section. You can add half a lemon or lime to the water to preserve a bit of the artichokes' color.

The cook time will depend largely on artichoke size; you'll just have to guess and check. Check by stabbing through the thickest part of the base with a paring knife- when the knife goes through without resistance, the artichoke is done. These little guys took just under 20 minutes.

Boiling is also acceptable, but leaches more vitamins and minerals from the artichokes and leaves them a bit soggy and harder to handle. If you've got a steamer, use it.

Step 3: Make sauce

While the artichokes are steaming, make some sauce.

Melted butter is traditional, sometimes with lemon and/or garlic.

I prefer something a lighter lemon vinaigrette, which looks/tastes much like lemon/garlic butter:

1 large lemon, juiced
extra virgin olive oil, equal to lemon juice volume
fresh grated garlic (I use lots; do this to your taste)
dab fresh mustard as an emulsifier
dash salt/pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients together; you'll end up with a gorgeous buttery-looking emulsion. Drop a few tablespoons into individual ramekins to avoid cross-contamination.

Step 4: Remove outer leaves

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Peel off and discard the small lower and outer leaves. These don't have much flesh at the base, and are a bit tough. They're standing between you and the good stuff, so out they go.

Peel down the stem as you go; this will come in handy when you reach the heart.

Step 5: Eat large leaves

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When you reach the "hips" of the artichoke, you'll begin pulling off leaves with a large white attachment point at the base, and some surrounding fleshy tissue. From this point on, all of the leaves will be at least partially edible.

Remove the leaf, dip it in your sauce, and put it in your mouth upside down so the inside bottom part sits against your lower teeth. Drag your teeth along the leaf, scraping off the fleshy tissue down to the attachment point. Discard the rest of the leaf, as it's too tough to eat.

Step 6: Eat center leaves

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The softer center leaves can be removed in one piece, and the lower 1/3-1/2 of the leaves are good to eat.

Wiggle the cap of center leaves; they should release easily, coming off together. Dip the entire base in the sauce, and eat from the bottom up. The leaves will thicken part way up, making it fairly obvious where to stop eating.

Step 7: Remove choke

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The artichoke is a relative of the thistle, and if allowed to mature they open to display a lovely purple flower. The cluster of immature florets at the center of the artichoke is known as the "choke", and should not be eaten.

Remove and discard the last small leaves covering the choke; they usually pick up some of the fuzzy bits, and so are best simply disposed of. Use a spoon or your finger to scrape out the soft, furry choke without losing any of the tasty heart below.

Step 8: Eat heart

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Dip the remaining heart into the sauce, and eat. Your own ramekin of sauce is advised, as you'll be double and triple-dipping. Eat the heart, and chew down the stem until it starts to get stringy. Good stuff.

Step 9: Extra bits

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Keep a couple of bowls on the table to discard leaves, chokes, and stems. Plates full of artichoke detritus aren't fun, and don't leave room for the rest of dinner.

Artichokes keep well in the refrigerator, and are great served cold the next day. Just make sure you've got more tasty sauce to serve with them.
i dont like artichokes
In some ways they are an acquired taste. The big part is to make sure you get fresh ones or they will taste like crap no matter what you do. Sometimes it seems cheaper to just get the pre-cut hearts in a jar/can.
IchadBuns5 years ago
Down the stem, you can actually remove the fibrous exterior and the core is edible and tastes like artichoke heart.  Even more deliciousness from a simple and delicious plant :)
_mattb5 years ago
this was easy and tasty, thanks!  our steaming setup was a colander over a big boiling pot of water; it took maybe 30+ minutes but still worked. 

Also, mayonnaise is quite good with artichokes..no joke, try it out.
Yum!
I grew up with artichokes cooked over the stove, but there's an even easier (and I think TASTIER) way to cook them- in the microwave! If there's not an instructable already up for it I might just have to make one.
I've never tried artichokes, but I think I might have to now.... hehe

By the way, I told my mom that Instructables is host to hundreds of food recipes... I think I got her hooked =P
phenoptix8 years ago
A pretty good guide but artichokes can be sooo much easier!! Especially when it comes to the eating! I bought about 30 back from Rome with me last October, I watched an old man in the Campo Di Fiori preparing them the Italian way. I'll do an instructable next time I can get my hands on them. My mouth is watering....
canida (author)  phenoptix8 years ago
What is the Italian way? This sounds good- I must know. Please hurry- it's artichoke season here in CA, and I will be eating LOTS of them over the next month or two.
OK I'll grab some at the earliest opportunity!
canida, you really impress me x_x...such tastiness
royalestel8 years ago
My Mom and I love the artichokes too; she recently found a quick and easy steaming method--rinse the artichokes, then fill with water. Leave the artichokes vertical in a deep bowl to hold in the water, and nuke for 20 minutes on high.
canida (author)  royalestel8 years ago
Sounds like a handy option. Do you need to cover the bowl?
Uh, yes. Well, not really, but they'l be more tender if you do. Google "artichoke microwave recipe" and take a gander.
postapoc8 years ago
I love me some artichoke. My folks used to make this all the time. I'm suprised by how many people have never tried it. Sooooo good
westfw8 years ago
NEVER, EVER, put your discarded artichoke bits down a gabage disposal. They grind up to a fiberous mat that will clog your sink REAL good. You didn't mention any appropriate sauces. Clarified butter (possibly with lemon and/or garlic) is traditional, but we like mayonaise. A friend of ours says "I think artichokes are really just an excuse to eat mayo."
canida (author)  westfw8 years ago
Good to know! I can also recommend against putting raw rice down the disposer- it turns into rice flour and expands, and is almost impossible to remove. (I was an innocent bystander, NOT the perpetrator.) I put the sauce step back in, as it had fallen victim to a bug. Check out step 3; I find artichokes a great excuse to eat lemon/garlic vinaigrette.
boocat8 years ago
Wonderful tutorial! We just used to drag the leaves down along the top of a stick of butter. Delightfully messy. Who made that cheery luncheon plate? I want to run out and pick up a few. (The red bowl I recognize as a "Fiestaware" type of stoneware.)
canida (author)  boocat8 years ago
It's Denby, Harlequin pattern, since discontinued but still very available on eBay. They've got paired mixes of red/blue/green. The pink bowl is one of a nesting melamine mixing set from Crate & Barrel. I just fixed the bug that ate my sauce instructions; check out step 3 for the one I used.
wombat78 years ago
sweet jesus that looks so good!