I often equate artichoke with crawfish: You have to really work for it. And when an artichoke (or a crawfish — I just hosted a Southern-themed dinner at my house that reminded me of it) is dangling in front of you, it’s such a tease. You want to put the whole thing in your mouth yet you have to pick apart all the pieces before you get to the good stuff.
But I gotta say… All that work is worth it in the end and the more you do, the easier it gets. Even meditative. Every spring I’ll end up with at least 10 freshly picked artichokes from the garden, ready to be trimmed and tossed in an artichoke pasta rustica or an Italian artichoke salad. The next week, there will be 10 more… and maybe those will turn into a jar of marinated hearts (which far surpasses any jar you can buy from the store).
The point is, you can do a lot with an artichoke heart. You just have to get to it first, and you’ll need to set aside a leisurely afternoon for it (because being rushed is no way to approach a bowl of artichokes full of thorns and slippery flesh). Before you throw down the towel in despair and reach for a can of ‘chokes, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
All you need are fresh artichokes, a lemon, a large knife, a paring knife, and a steady hand. Ready?
Using a large knife, I start by slicing my artichoke in half lengthwise. This lets me see how large the choke is and where I need to cut next.
Cut the top part off the artichoke right above the fibrous choke.
Discard the top part. You’re now only working with the base.
Pull off all the tough outer leaves (known botanically as the bracts, as you learned yesterday) by hand.
With a paring knife, slice off the thick outer layer on the base and the stem. Do this similar to how you’d peel an apple with a knife. If it makes it easier, you can peel the stem with a vegetable peeler.
Rub a lemon wedge all over the flesh (don’t forget the bottom of the stem!) to keep it from turning brown. This is more for aesthetic purposes, as oxidation won’t alter the taste.
Use your paring knife to cut out the choke. You want to make sure you really get all the fibers out, as any part left on the heart will just be an itchy and annoying feeling in the back of your throat later. Rub more lemon juice on the flesh.
Once you’ve got everything peeled, sliced and juiced, step back and admire your perfectly trimmed artichoke heart… with a bonus stem to boot.
You can chop all this up for dinner right away, or squeeze more lemon juice over it and stash the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to use. If you don’t plan to use the hearts until the next day, fill the bowl with cold water, squeeze half a lemon into it, and refrigerate.
What will you make with yours first?