Steamed Artichokes

Steamed ArtchokesThistle Do!
I have always had a thing for steamed artichokes. It started when I was a kid. My grandmother was a huge fan of artichokes and she passed that love on to me. My sister and my mother weren’t as crazy about them. So, it was a connection that was just between me and my grandmother. It was ritualistic.

She would get so excited for the Spring because it would mean that artichokes would be in season. And, she would take a trip to Watsonville just to get the freshest ones. At home, she would steam them, and we would devour them with a dollop of mayonnaise on the side. Always mayo. Never butter, vinaigrette, or anything else. I have since embraced other options like chipotle aioli to aid my obsession. But, I admit that the mayo is still my favorite way to eat the leaves of a choke.

It never occurred to me growing up that the love my grandmother and I had for artichokes wasn’t universal and that other people wouldn’t have the same fondness for artichokes. I was completely shocked when I went away for college and encountered friends who hadn’t even heard of an artichoke—let alone eaten one. But my grief at the lack of artichoke reverence was lifted by the lovely woman who was the house manager for my sorority.

Ms. Church lived on the premises and managed more than just the kitchens and the grounds. She was an invaluable resource for anything we needed. She didn’t have any kids of her own. So, Ms. Church considered us all hers. She was classy as hell and didn’t take any crap. But, she was also a lot of fun. Ann Church liked her cocktails, smokes, dirty jokes, tv shows, drove a hot little Cadillac, and she was as crazy about artichokes as I am. (She was basically my hero).

Every Spring Ms. Church would order cases of artichokes that would be steamed to eat for dinner for the whole house. There was nothing else to go with them. Just the artichokes. No chicken. No potatoes. Just chokes. It was fantastic. I spent most of my first artichoke dinner explaining to others how to eat them. But, every artichoke dinner after that I sat next to Ms. Church, and we happily gorged ourselves while others looked on and thought we were nuts.

My daughter has inherited my love of artichokes, although her enthusiasm may not always match mine. We did enjoy our first giant choke of the season the other day though. It was glorious…

Steamed Artichokes Recipe
Yields 4 servings

It is not difficult to prepare steamed artichokes. It just takes a little time for them to steam and to allow them to return to room temperature. So, if you are planning a dinner party, steam the artichokes first and set them aside. They make a lovely appetizer. 

4 artichokes
1 lemon
Kosher salt

Prep the artichokes
Snap off any coarse leaves from the stem.

Using a serrated knife, cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke. Using kitchen shears, snip off the remaining spiky tips. With a sharp knife, trim the stems flush against the bottom of the artichoke, so that it can stand upright.

Rub the cut top surface of the artichokes with a lemon half to prevent discoloration.

Note: If you have artichokes with thick stems, know that the heart of the stem is similar to the heart of the artichoke—the best part. You can trim off the tough outer portion of the stem and toss them in the steamer basket with the artichokes.

Steam the artichokes
Set your steamer basket inside a large stockpot. (We like using a metal steamer basket for this.) Add enough water so that it reaches just below the bottom of the basket. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into the water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring the pot to a boil.

Place the artichokes in the steamer basket with the tops down. Cover the pot, and steam until the hearts are tender when pierced with a fork. The inner leaves should pull out easily (about 25 to 35 minutes). If necessary, add more water to the pot so it doesn’t dry out.

When the artichokes are finished steaming, place them upside down inside a colander and allow them to drain and come to room temperature.

To serve
Serve at room temperature with a small bowl of dipping sauce at each place setting. It is also good to have a larger bowl on the table to collect the spent leaves.

Dipping Sauces
A good quality mayo, better yet one that is freshly homemade is simple and delicious. If you want, you can dress it up with some chopped garlic (to taste) and a squirt of lemon juice to make aioli.

You can also try this easy Hollandaise Sauce recipe from Martha Stewart or our recipe for Pine Nut Vinaigrette. Melted butter with garlic also makes a great dipping sauce.

If you are completely uninitiated to artichoke consumption, check out this wiki-how article on how to eat an artichoke.


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