07 December 2010

Double Take: Whole Cooked Artichokes

I’m not sure why, but I kept putting this recipe off. I love artichokes. I picked this recipe to help convince Tabitha she should try them. But week after week they made my list of things to make, but I never made them.

I was first introduced to artichokes when I was 16. One of my friends and I had a brilliant idea to have a medieval feast, and well, when my friend put her mind to something, things happened. We decorated her finished attic, made medieval dresses, and she and her mom prepared a feast for kings (or rather, princesses). One of our appetizers was artichokes. Until then, I had only ever had them marinated or thrown into a spinach dip… in other words, I’d never really tasted a pure artichoke. She served them simply, with salted clarified butter, very similarly to how one would serve lobster (mhmm, lobster). I thought I’d gone to heaven. One bite of that succulent, butter-dipped, silky plant-flesh had me converted to an artichoke fan. I haven’t liked canned artichokes since. The canning process completely robs the artichoke of its umph. The texture completely changes and you are left with a limp, woody mass that squeaks as you bite into it. Eww. Give me fresh artichokes or give me none! (I know, I know, that saying isn’t quite the same without ending in death, but I don’t think I would die without artichokes. I’m much more likely to put my life on the line for people or liberty than a particular type of food.)

My artichokes were pretty tough so I was unable to use the paring knife to cut off the tops, but it did work well for the stems. 

So two days before we were going to post this recipe, I decided to actually look at it. I didn’t have any artichokes in the house and our evenings were busy attending German class, celebrating a successful PhD defense (Congratulations, Dr. Jenny!), and learning how to make a typical German dish from The Dude (don’t worry, there will be a post complete with pictures and a recipe). So Wednesday night I decided I’d have to make the artichokes at work for lunch on Thursday. But then I realized they took 35 minutes to cook and threw that idea out the window. I begged Tabitha to let me post late again and put it off until the following Monday because I was going on a long weekend trip to London. And by golly, I made them last night! Finally!

Trimmed and in the water with lemon juice

The instructions for the recipe are very basic: trim, rub with lemon juice to prevent discoloration, boil for 35 minutes or until tender.

I boiled mine for well over an hour, but I think that had more to do with the fact that I did not trim my stem as much as I should have. And, my artichokes looked pretty fibrous so it took a while for them to soften up.

An artichoke ready for eating, surrounded by leaves from its fallen comrade. 

Whole Cooked Artichokes
from the all-new ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, available online here

4 large artichokes
Lemon wedge
3 tablespoons lemon juice (I used one lemon)

Wash artichokes by plunging up and down in cold water (I cut corners here and just rinsed in a bit of cold water. BIG MISTAKE... the leaves were quite sandy) Cut off stem ends, and trim about 1/2 inch from top of each artichoke. Remove any loose bottom leaves. Trim one-fourth off top of each outer leaf with scissors, and rub cut edges with lemon wedge.

Arrange artichokes in a Dutch oven; cover with water, and add lemon juice.

Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until lower leaves pull out easily. Drain.

Microwave Directions: Stand artichokes in an 11- x 7-inch baking dish; add 1 cup water to dish. Cover dish with heavy-duty plastic wrap (Microwaving plastic wrap makes me rather nervous… I’d use the lid from the baking dish instead. If you don’t have a lid, use a steamer or the boil method to cook the artichokes). Microwave at HIGH 15 to 20 minutes, giving dish a quarter turn halfway through cooking time. Let stand 5 minutes. (When done, petals near the center will pull out easily). Prep: 15 min., Cook: 20 min., Stand: 5 min.

I love artichokes. I'd only ever used a steamer before, but I don't have a steamer now (or a microwave for that matter) so the option to boil them was useful for me. If you have a steamer, use that method because I had issues with my artichokes floating and therefore not cooking evenly all over. Cooking an artichoke through does not require fab cooking skills, but the final product is fab when served correctly. To make it fabulously fun, serve with a dipping sauce. My favorite is salted, melted clarified butter, but the book suggests Hollandaise as well. I might just have to try that soon... What is your favorite way to eat an artichoke?

Step 1: Pull off a leaf. 

I-love-artichokes: 1 vote

Step 2: Dip in butter or sauce of your choice. (not pictured)

Step 3: Scrap your teeth along the bottom of the leaf to pull of the soft fleshy bits. Note: You will be able to remove a lot more flesh as you get closer to the middle of the artichoke (the heart). Take care to avoid the fibrous, yucky choke. 

For Tabitha's take on Whole Cooked Artichokes, head on over to Double the Garlic!


  1. Is it possible to cook artichokes in a way that isn't delicious?!!? A few comments: I cook mine in a pot/pan small enough that they are all touching each other and therefore forced to stand up (gets around the whole floating and cooking evenly problem). I sometimes loosen up the leaves (put your fingers in the center and pull out a bit) and sprinkle in seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. When I cook in water, I don't have the water go all the way up the artichoke, so it is more like steaming them. Getting bursts of cheese and breadcrumbs on some of the leaves is quite a treat! Finally, sometimes I steam them in leftover tomato sauce and water. The resulting liquid is a delicious artichoke flavored tomato sauce that is perfect for pasta or as a base for risotto. I am glad you were able to find some and enjoy them. You are making me want to go out and buy some...

  2. I'm rather surprised at how different the varieties of artichoke can look. The leaves on yours and the shape of the plant as a whole is much more pointy than the ones I found here. I wonder what the advantage of that is? I feel a little more reassured to know one was all you could handle. Do you typically cut the points off the end before cooking? We didn't and I wondered if it mattered.

  3. I've never cooked or really eaten "fresh" artichoke (only in the dip form or canned hearts). Thanks to your inspirational post, I'm thinking I might need to give it a go!

  4. @ Helen: Oh my, the use of breadcrumbs and cheese is brilliant. I had no idea artichokes could get better! I think I'll be picking up some artichokes the next time I see them. :)

    @ Tabitha: These guys were pretty scary looking. I was grateful they turned out to taste just like the other varieties! Cutting off the tips of the leaves was pretty important for these artichokes since they were a bit sharp. And quite tough.

    @ Megan: Try them, you will love them!

  5. It's a big staple of my mom's cooking! The big rounded artichokes from Brittany are reputed for being delicious, you might be able to get them where you are... I have not made them myself, but my mom steams them in the pressure cooker (no lemon or cutting off leaves) and then serves them with a vinaigrette as a dipping sauce (sometimes with diced shallots). I think when she was here she used the steam cooker.
    Helen, I'm really curious about the breadcrumbs and Parmesan option. Sounds awesome!


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