I was always intimidated by preparing artichokes…it seemed like quite a task to get anything edible from this armadillo of a vegetable. But when a recent manager’s special at the local supermarket had eight of them for $1.99, I figured it was a sign that it was time to try.
I love the way you eat them when steamed or roasted whole…you remove each leaf and hold the pointy end while dragging our teeth on the stem end to get the flesh off. It’s like a delicious secret that you have to tease out with your hands and teeth. And then you are left with the center which is creamy and nutty and entirely delicious.
Although like many “manager’s specials” these particular artichokes were not at their bright and tight best, they had nice smooth green leaves – if they were a bit separated from the core, well at $1.99 I wasn’t going to be fussed. This was an experiment in technique, after all, so if they weren’t artichokes at their peak, it didn’t matter so much. And the following technique brought out the best in them.
As it happened, I didn’t have to do much more than show up with them. The dad took over immediately, citing a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that looked manageable and used roasting to sweeten and deepen the flavor (steaming or boiling doesn’t really enhance artichokes the same way) and got to work. Who knew there was such pent-up demand for artichokes in the de Cuba household?
I cleaned a few artichoke halves then started working on the clams, while Pedro continued. He adjusted the recipe just a bit, since there were more artichokes than in the original and because God forbid either of us follow the dictates of some stranger with a publication without a measure of doubt and cynicism and the belief that we can do it better.
Anyhow, they were absolutely lovely and since (this is becoming a thing) neither my mom nor my son wanted to try, we got to eat them all ourselves, with the exception of a couple of halves that we passed back over the fence to our neighbor who brought us some of his most excellent garlicky grilled zucchini to try. Ah, the warm weather fun begins in the neighborhood!
1 lemon, halved
2 quarts water in a big bowl
8 artichokes (medium size, with leaves that are smooth and green and still fairly tight)
Extra virgin olive oil (2-3 Tbs for the pan and more for direct application to the artichokes)
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 475°F and move rack to lower middle position.
Squeeze lemon halves into the bowl of water and drop squeezed halves in too!
Cut off most of the stem of each artichoke. Cut off the top quarter. Remove tough outer leaves by pulling down towards stem. Cut artichoke in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or strawberry huller, remove hairy choke and all purple tinged leaves (be thorough about this). Cut off the rest of the base, leaving a cup in the center of each artichoke and drop the halves into the bowl of water.
Drizzle 2-3 Tbs olive oil into a baking dish and spread it around. Remove artichokes from water, shaking off some water and pouring a bit of olive oil on the cut side of each. You may also toss artichokes in a TBS or two of olive oil to which you have added ¾ tsp salt. We waited on the salt until serving.
Arrange artichokes, cut side down, in baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Roast until cut side of artichokes is starting to brown and bases and leaves are tender when poked (about 25-30 minutes if you are the good people at Cook’s Illustrated and are paying attention, or 40 minutes if you are us and you forget to set the oven timer). Transfer to serving dish (if you are the good people at Cook’s Illustrated or just plop the pan on a trivet on the picnic table if you are us) and serve with lemon slices and salt and pepper for sprinkling. Pull off the leaves and drag your teeth down the ends for the creamy stuff and eat the center.