Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Artichokes - The bestest green veggie

Since it is my birthday month, I wanted to focus on some things I LOVE.  We don't go out to eat that often, but when I get the chance, we make a bee line to Black Angus Restaurant to get only one thing: Their fire-grilled artichokes appetizer.  Oh my goodness they are yummy.  Served warm and dripping with garlic butter and served with two aoli dipping sauces.  I don't even get a meal anymore, JUST the artichokes.

The artichokes - picture from the Black Angus menu.
Have you ever seen an artichoke plant?  Technically they are a perennial flower that are actually considered part of the thistle family. It really makes you wonder, somewhere, in the distant past, somebody looked at this poky bush with a thorny knob sticking out of it and thought, hey, I'd like to eat that thing??!!  How in the world did it ever come about that these were discovered to be, in fact, as Alton Brown says, "Good Eats"?  I planted one last year in my garden and it grew to be of a large size, but produced no artichokes. A friend informed me that they establish themselves the first year, and produce chokes after that.  Well this year I am PLEASED to report that I have chokes a' growin'!!  This is very exciting to me and I want to learn how to cook them just like they do at the restaurant so I can enjoy them fresh from the garden. Look I have three bulbs already!!  Yea!

The artichoke plant in my garden!! (Healthy artichoke plants, with a lot of space can yield many chokes in a season from one plant!)
Usually there are two ways to cook these babies.  Boiling and Steaming.  I asked the chef at the restaurant they prefer the steaming method.  So I did a little you tube googling to find out the best way to prepare them.  First rinse them off quickly and pat them dry.  Cut a bit off the stem, but be sure to leave about an inch, which will make it easier to grab later.

Next, flip them around and cut off about one inch off the front of the choke. 

Then, you want to get rid of those prickly spines.  They are very sharp, so beware.  Take a pair of kitchen scissors and snip to remove them all the way around (your fingers will thank you later).

The nice lady on the you tube video told me that artichokes oxidize fast, and to rub them all over quickly with a half of lemon to prevent browning.  Next, it's time to steam them.  I went looking all over a few different stores for that little metal "space ship" type device that steams vegetables, but alas I could not find one anywhere.  Luckily, my husband is half genius and part "MacGyver" to boot, so we decided to jimmy-rig a steamer with household items we had on hand.

First of all, our artichokes were those BIG monster globe type.  My normal pot was way too small, so we went for our extra large pot.  On the bottom of the pot we put our metal strainer upside down.  On top of that we put a plate right side up.
I'd like to thank my hubby, aka MacGyver for this spur of the moment choke steamer
Next we added a few inches of water to the bottom of the pot, but not touching the plate.  We also, under the plate, added the lemon juice and halves left over from rubbing the chokes, a few cloves of garlic and 2 bay leaves.  This will give the water and thus the steam extra flavor.

Next we put in the artichokes in on top of the plate.  Note: We laid them on their side because of the plate factor.  Normally if you have a steamer/spaceship you would place them face down.

Next it is recommended to steam them about 45 minutes.  I hate it when they are slightly tough though, so because of their size, I added an extra 10 minutes, steaming them for almost an hour.
You will know they are done when you can easily stick a knife through the stem without any resistance.  By the way, the house will smell fabulous and they will look like this:

While they are still warm bring them to a cutting board face down, and with tongs, cut down the middle of the stem, slicing them completely in half.

In the center you will find a purple section of leaves (what would have become the flower) that you will need to scoop out.  Because everything is so soft, it comes out pretty easily. Just take a big spoon and gently cut out the center part and remove so they look like the two on the left.
Picture from Cooking's Good blog - The one on the far right still needs the center purple part removed

Preparing them this way is genius I tell you, because now you have an edible bowl where you can pour in a slathering spoonful of garlic butter and as you pull the leaves off, each bite will have a bit of butter on it.  If you have never eaten an artichoke before, simply pull off the leaves and scrape the lower half of the leaf in your mouth, pulling off all the "meat". It is DIVINE!

Don't forget to add on a couple of turns of sea salt over the finished chokes

We were so excited to eat these that we totally forgot to grill them.  But the grilling part is not for necessarily cooking them, just to add the tasty char marks to the out side.  If you don't have the time (or the patience) to grill, eat them as soon as you can!  They are great as an appetizer, on their own as a meal, or a side to steak, chicken, etc.

Also after you have pulled off all the leaves you are left with the very best part, the heart of the artichoke.  Be sure to saver these. I tend to cut them up like hunks of meat, dip them carelessly in garlic butter and chew slowly to enjoy the wonderful flavor.  I could almost go vegetarian if I could have these every night.  They are so satisfying! These have GOT to be my all time favorite green vegetable.  So don't be afraid to try this alien-esque type orb, as it could easily turn out to be your go to veggie!

1 comment:

Suzi said...

Hey, I love what you have done with the artichokes and thank you so much for using my photo and posting credit to me and my site. How cool is that. I am following you but I could not find a place to subscribe via e-amil. Let me know how I can do that. I tried growing artichokes one year and the second year I did have a couple on there but then I had to go out of town, I think, but more than likely they needed more water. Here in Florida we are not getting the amount we need. I love that photo of them growing, kudos to you and all the luck in the world. Artichokes are a huge favorite. Stop by and see me when you get a chance. Let me know the progress on you artichokes. http://www.cookingsgood.com/

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