Conquering the Artichoke

From what I’ve heard, restaurant chefs consider artichokes a layup. Clean it. Grill it. Fire-roast it. Serve with festive dipping sauces. Boom. Another customer taken care of. Simple, right? Gaze wistfully into the distance, because unfortunately, it hasn’t been as simple of a journey for me as I’m making it out to be.

I’ve tried steaming artichokes. I’ve tried cleaning artichokes. I’ve even gotten over my fear of lighting my maxi-dress on fire while attempting to grill artichokes.

My mother and Mr. Right’s mother thought I was crazy. “You can steam them in the microwave and it’s just as good.” I’m sorry ladies. Been there. Done that. I lack the patience to babysit a microwave and make sure nothing explodes. Plus I’m not entirely certain how to use one. Is that bad? Moving on…

The chefs in my life thought I was lazy. “Dude, I can turn an artichoke in like twenty seconds. Watch.” The scar on the inside of my thumb came from that one, bro.

Things were looking bleak. One evening while zoning out and watching “Top Chef” reruns, someone from Season 9: Texas called out a buzz-phrase: “Roman Style Artichoke.” I glanced up in time to see….leaves? A pan sauce?  I turned to Food Network for guidance, and oven-braised my first-ever successful artichoke.

Roman Style Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • Artichokes – as many as you’re going to eat
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – An important note about cooking with wine: Buy cheap, but not so cheap that you won’t be willing to drink whatever is left in the bottle after you’re done cooking with it. The lush in me refuses to let wine go to waste sitting in your pantry.
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup H2O – that’s water, for our less scientific-minded learners
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/3 tablespoon dry oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Pre-heat oven to 350

Fill a bowl big enough to house the artichokes with water, and squeeze the lemon’s juices into it. Toss the leftover halves into the bowl when you’re done squeezing.

Partially clean the artichokes by cutting off the tops, snipping the sharp tips off the leaves with kitchen shears, and removing leaves from the steam, and any tough-looking leaves from the bottom layer. Then slice the artichokes in half and scrape out the choke (the hairy part in the center.) Put the artichoke halves into the lemon water for 2 to 5 minutes.

Remove the artichokes from the water and put into a pot with the cut side facing up (the insides should be looking at you in all their blank canvas glory.)

Add the wine, olive oil, water, salt, garlic, and herbs to the pot. Bring to a boil.

If you’re lucky enough to have a stove-to-oven pot, place the pot in the oven and cover.

If you’re a plebian like me, use tongs to place the artichokes in a baking dish, then pour the pot’s contents over the artichokes. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until the stem flesh pierces easily with a fork.

When the artichokes come out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil, pepper flakes, and the braising liquid (i.e. the juices left over in the baking dish.)

I never knew success could be so soft and herbaceous.

One thought on “Conquering the Artichoke

  1. Dad says:

    Your grandmother loved artichokes. She always cooked them in a pressure cooker on the stovetop. I recall no other way she ever prepared them. She used them as a way of shoveling massive amounts of mayonnaise into her mouth. Never noticed her ever doing anything interesting with the heart.

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