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Artichokes

Artichoke Appetizer

Artichokes are definitely a family favorite, and for our guests as well. Depending on the crowd, I usually fix one for every three or four people. Some like just the leaves, and some, like our Cooking Dudette, like carving up the heart at the end.

You can fix them in a pot, in a pressure cooker, in the oven, or in the microwave. I'm going to use my favorite method, which is a covered pot on the stove. It takes longer to cook than in the pressure cooker, but by the time I get the cooker out, heat it up, wash it, and put it away I don't think I've saved much time.

The microwave is also faster, but not very uniform. You might wind up with some undercooked parts. Of course, you can always re-nuke some of it if you need to.

In any case, the important thing is to steam the choke until the leaves are tender. That will take about 20-25 minutes in a pressure cooker or 40-45 minutes in a covered pot on the stovetop. Fifteen minutes might be enough in a covered bowl in the microwave, but either use a turntable or reposition the bowl frequently during cooking. You'll have to experiment, because microwave ovens differ so much from one to the next.

Trimming the Artichoke

If I bring the artichoke home from the store more than an hour or two before cooking it, I slice off a half inch of stem and put the choke in a little glass of water to keep it fresh. When it's time to fix it, I remove all the stem, so the choke has a flat bottom to sit on. Then I use kitchen shears or scissors to trim of the spiky tip of each leaf, and then use a serrated knife to whack off the top half inch or so to expose the tops of the inner leaves.

Trimmed Artichoke

Then I rinse the choke under rapidly running water to rinse out the spaces inside the leaves. Turn it over and shake it to see if you've received any gifts from Castroville. Then I place the choke in a pot (or several of them in a larger pot) that has a tight-fitting lid. Have an inch of water in the bottom of the pot, and sprinkle some seasonings over the choke.

Steaming the Artichoke

I often use bottled Italian dressing, but you can make up your own dressing, if you wish. Some people use salt and pepper, maybe drizzled with olive oil, maybe some vinegar, and sometimes finely grated parmesan cheese. Use your imagination. I usually also drizzle some dressing into the water around the choke, which flavors the steam (or at least makes the kitchen smell good).

The only disaster to avoid is to let the pot boil dry. So check once in a while to make sure, and add water if necessary.

Artichoke Appetizer

Using tongs, check after 40 minutes or so to see if the leaves are getting loose. If you can pull one out, it's a sign you want to test for tenderness. Turn the leaf upside down and scrape the flesh off of the leaf with your bottom teeth. If it comes off easily and is tender, it's done.

Dip Artichoke Leaves

Some people like to eat the leaves as they come off the choke, but most like to have a dip to add more flavor. Try melted butter, or mayonnaise. One I use frequently is mayonnaise with a little curry powder stirred up in it. Put plates around for people to discard the finished leaves, and when you get to the heart, use a knife to cut it up into smaller pieces and use forks or toothpicks to finish it off.

 


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