Thank goodness for impulse purchases. Heading into the grocery store this past weekend, I had no idea I would be buying artichokes. My mind was more focused on the cheese counter, but the pyramid of the purple leafed vegetables had a siren call I could not ignore – and more importantly, they were on sale. Once the artichokes were back in my apartment, though, I had to contemplate how to cook them. I had made boiled artichokes many times before, but had never really been satisfied. While the artichokes would come out tender, the leaves often seemed bland and best used as transporters for lemon butter or aioli.
In one of my many cookbooks, I found a recipe for a savory broth of peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, onion, lemon and wine. At first, I struggled to get my artichokes to lie facedown in the broth and I finally resorted to using my fondue pot as a weight to immerse them fully in the broth. I’m sure some day, an enterprising soul will invent the artichoke weight – until then my fondue pot will serve as a workable multi-tasker.
Then, I set about making aioli. My previous attempts at making aioli had been failures, but I had been using a food processor. This time I figured the whisk and arm strength method would probably be my best bet. On this occasion, the aioli came together easily – the only problem, however, was that the garlic I had used was a bit green and I thus found the aioli to be bitter. Next time I’ll use roasted garlic – that should ensure an aioli with a much more mellow flavor. But for this attempt, well let’s just say I was lucky that lemon butter was so easy to make.
The artichokes came out tender and flavorful – and the heart of the artichoke was spectacular. Its texture was crisp, yet soft and smooth at the same time. All in all it was a nice, relatively light (so long as you went easy on the lemon butter) vegetable meal for a late spring evening.
Artichokes Cooked in a Lemon & Wine Broth
Adapted from Big Small Plates by Cindy Pawlcyn
2 Large Artichokes
2 quarts water
The juice and zest of a lemon (nothing fancy with the zest – I just used a vegetable peeler)
1 small onion – chopped
1 bay leave
3 cloves of garlic
3 coriander seeds (I didn’t have these so I left them out)
2 tablespoons of salt
1 cup of white wine
3-4 tablespoons of melted butter
The juice of half a lemon
Cut off the top inch of each artichoke and cut the stems off the bottoms. (Note – the stems of an artichoke are very good as well – just peel them with a vegetable peeler and poach in the same liquid) Put all the poaching ingredients in a large pot and bring to boil. Add the artichokes face down (you may need to place a weight on top of them to keep them in this position), bring the water back to a boil then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook the artichokes until they are tender at the heart – 30-45 minutes – a sharp knife will easily slide into the base of the artichoke when they are done. Remove from the water and drain. Serve with lemon butter or aioli.
**Note on eating artichokes: if you’ve never eaten a whole artichoke before, they can be a bit daunting. The outer leaves are tough and you scrape the leaves over your teeth discarding the inedible parts. As you get closer to the heart, each leaf will be more tender and more of the leaf will break off in your mouth when you eat it. When you reach the fuzzy choke, don’t be tempted to eat this – use a knife to gently remove the inedible fuzz. What remains will be the heart. This is arguably the best and most tender part of the artichoke and you can eat it all.