Artichokes are probably one of the most intimidating vegetables on the face of the earth, but if you've ever had one, especially with hollandaise sauce, you know they are divine!
My husband used to say it was the only vegetable where you ended up with more on your plate when you finished than when you started. Artichokes were also my son's favorite vegetable when he was in kindergarten. One day I got a phone call from his teacher who wanted to share with me what had happened at school when she asked the class to write down their favorite things. When it came to food, most kids wrote down things like hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers etc. then she saw my son raise his hand to ask "How do you spell artichokes with hollandaise sauce?" True story, no joke.Yes, my children were introduced to everything from an early age and if it took hollandaise to get them to eat artichokes, I am still grateful!.
There is no reason to be put off by the sight of an artichoke. They are very easy to cook.
Choose globes that are dark green, heavy, and have "tight" leaves
Cut the stem to about 1 inch so they will lay down flat on your plate. Put them on top of a steamer inside a big pot and steam for about 45 minutes. You will know when they are done if when you stick a knife through the stalk it is soft like a potato when its done. That's it! You can serve them cold with a French vinaigrette or hot with my favorite, hollandaise sauce. For my easy, no fail recipes go here
There are beautiful artichoke plates you can buy, or you can simply serve them on a regular plate with a bowl on the side to place the discarded leaves. You will need a knife and a fork for when you get to the best part, the heart. I always serve them as a first course so they can shine on their own!. The hollandaise is passed around so everyone can take a couple of spoonfuls and place in their plates to dip the leaves and later eat with the heart. Same with a vinaigrette, except in that case, everything is served cold and you should really cut the top third of the artichoke before you steam them. It makes for a nicer presentation and you can drizzle some of the vinaigrette inside.
These are my plates. Notice at left is a place for the sauce.
How to eat an artichoke
Start by pulling off one of the outermost petals. It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers, leaving fork and knife aside for now. Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end. If you're provided with a dip such as a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, put a small part of the edible portion of the leaf in the dip and scrape with your teeth. Don't overdo it on the dip or you won't taste the artichoke. (the edible portion of the leaves becomes greater as you get closer to the center of the artichoke). Discard remainder (you'll want to have an empty bowl ready in which to drop them).
Just before you get to the very center, leaves will become almost white with purple tips. Be careful of these leaves because their purple ends are prickly.
When the leaves are pulled, you will be left with the base, the heart, crowned with a fuzzy patch. You have now reached the best part of all, the very reason for eating artichokes: the heart. Carefully scoop away the fuzzy stuff with your knife or spoon. With knife and fork, cut bites from the heart like pieces of prime fillet.
Here's a video:
If you have them, this is the time to use them!
If eating with a hollandaise sauce, a dry French Chardonnay or Fume Blanc is best. Be conscious of the fact that after eating an artichoke, the red wine served with the main course may taste a bit acidic. A piece of bread after finishing the artichoke and before tasting the wine will help.
First developed in Sicily, Italy, artichokes were brought to this country (California) by the Spaniards in 1600's but did not become popular until the 1920's. They were the third largest crop in the valley in 1929.
Did you know Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948? That made them super popular afterwards!
80% of the artichokes in the US are grown in Castroville, CA, 98 miles south of San Francisco (been there!)
The thicker the stalk, the bigger the heart!