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Les Artichauts

17/04/2010

Artichokes

Today I am going to teach you how to prepare and eat steamed artichokes. I love them best in early spring when I can find large artichauts violets, which are pictured above. But any kind will do. Look for firm plants without any brown spotting, and if you have a good sharp knife in your kitchen, a large pot, and a good jar of mayonnaise, you’re ready to get started. This is so easy you will want to make them again and again, but keep in mind they take time to steam, so plan ahead.

First you want to cut the artichoke. Laying it on its side, cut off and discard the stem. Keep the base intact. Then, cut off the tips, which are quite  prickly. You don’t have to cut off all of the tips, but you want to remove the longest ones. I cut off the length of about half a thumb…. as shown here.preparing artichokes

Now the top of the artichoke is flatter, and ready for steaming. how to cut an artichoke

Place the artichoke(s) top side down (leaf side down)into a large pot. Fill with water just so that the artichoke is submerged 1/4 of the way, no more. Fit with a lid and turn the water to high. If you don’t have a steaming lid, you can use a regular lid but leave it partially uncovered. They will take about 30 to 45 minutes, or even an hour to steam, depending on the size. Check after 30 minutes to make sure there is enough water left in the pot and add more if necessary. You also want to make sure they don’t steam too long or they will be watery and mushy. They are done when a knife can pass easily through the base, just like a cake.  Lift them carefully out of the water with tongs or two large forks, and plate.

I hope you have some good mayonnaise nearby, as these are wonderful with mayonnaise. I make my own, which is quite easy, but if you don’t want to bother store bought is okay. Make sure it contains only oil, raw egg yolk, vinegar, mustard and white wine. 

Artichaut avec des oeufs mayonnaise

l like to eat them with “devilled” egg and a bit of bread, and it’s easy enough to boil an egg or two while the artichokes are steaming. Then you need only to peel the eggs, slice in half lengthwise, and carefully remove the yolk to make the filling.  In a small bowl or on a plate, mince the yolks with a fork, then blend with a fork or spoon together with a little mayonnaise, a few drops of vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard, and a sprinkle of salt. Spoon the mixture into the concave of the egg white and voila! It’s something to do while the main dish is steaming away. Otherwise, the artichokes are just as delicious alone. Now for the most important part!

To eat a steamed artichoke: Either while hot or at room temperature, begin eating the leaves by taking one by one, dipping in mayonnaise, then placing it  between your teeth with the widest end facing you, and scraping off the “meat” with your teeth. Then discard the tough leaf. The leaves will have more and more meat and become softer as you near the center. There are many leaves and the toughest ones are on the edges. When you near the heart, the leaves get tiny and some may be bitter, so you can eat them or remove them. Then you will come to the “choke” and you don’t want to mess around with this! You will see many fibers, or “hairs.” Do not let even one of these into your moth or you will be sorry! But don’t be afraid and don’t just toss it out yet…there is something wonderful under those mean little hairs. The heart. To get it, shave away the hairs with a sharp knife, preserving as much of the meat lying under them as possible. When the hairs are gone, place the heart on a clean plate, and enjoy by dipping in the mayonnaise with a fork, or alone, or however you wish.

Variations: If mayonnaise isn’t for you, that is very sad. You can try it with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice and/or garlic. That is also very good…but nothing like mayonnaise.

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