Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Artichoke Mania Part 1- Cleaning

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to northern CA, my first since I was 1.  California is an interesting ecosystem, mainly because it's beautiful weather allows for fruits and veggies to grow in abundance all year while the rest of us have to deal with droughts and low frying temperatures.  Not that I'm jealous or anything.

It's artichoke season, and my aunt happens to live in close proximity to Castroville.  One quick note, if you ever see a sign for "French fried artichokes", I highly recommend you indulge.  You will not be disappointed. 

I'm like any other eater, I like my artichokes steamed and dipped in a little bit of mayo.  It's pretty simple really.  Cut off the stem, cut the top ¼ inch from the artichoke, and using scissors, clip the tips of each leaf to remove the thorns.  Steam them upside down for 25-30 minutes until a knife slides into the stem with little resistance.  You can enjoy them warm or stash them in the fridge and eat them as an appetizer later.

If you have lots and lots, I recommend harvesting the hearts (best part).  Let me tell you, pictures and words can help, but until you actually do one, you really have no idea what's going on.  I followed Tom Collicho's method, mainly because there were pictures and the dish I made using the artichokes was a recipe of his.

I broke this post over three parts, cleaning, braising, and finally the dish.  Today I just want to list out how I cleaned my artichokes and some tips I found while doing so.

Artichokes (Cleaning and Preparing)

Large bowl of water
1 lemon
8 artichokes

Squeeze lemon into water to acidulate nicely.  Use real lemon juice; you need the acid to prevent the artichokes from turning brown.  Retain the lemon and use it to rub over the artichoke if the cleaning is taking you a particularly long time.

Step 1- Peel the outer leaves from the artichoke until you get down to a cone like shape

Step 2- Cut off the stem (from the bottom) and all but 1 inch of the leaves (from the top).  You should be left with something that resembles a 2 inch thick circle with a little bit of the stem attached.

Step 3- Turn the artichoke upside down so the remaining stem is facing up.  Using a paring knife, peel off the outer layer of green like you would peel an apple (you can do this on a cutting board and cut in a downward motion the first few times you do it).  You should have mostly off white meat left.

Step 4- Trim around the edges of the heart to remove any remaining hard bits.  Should look something like this.

Step 5- Using a spoon, dig in the middle of the leaf side of the artichoke and remove all of the fuzzy choke.  If it's hard to get to, cut a little bit more down on the leaves.  Make sure you remove all the fuzz, it's indigestible.

Step 6- Place your finished heart in the bowl, repeat with remaining artichokes.