Monday, December 12, 2005

Artichokes: The Best Way to Cook

Since at least the mid-60's, I've been boiling or steaming artichokes at least a few times a year. My original and only means of preparation was from Craig Claiborne's early New York Times Cookbook.

Thirty five years passed before, having forgotten where my original recipe had come from, I checked out Rombauer and Becker's original Joy of Cooking to find a preparation which proved yet more to my liking. With further elaboration, as noted below, I found the result to be even more pleasing.


Fresh raw artichokes: as green and hard as possible

1 Sliced onion

1 Clove of garlic, mashed

2 Celery ribs with leaves

1 1/2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 Bay leaf

Melted butter or Hollandaise sauce or Bechamel sauce for serving

It should be noted that I've made minor changes regarding the ingredients called for in The Joy of Cooking, the first regarding sliced onion and mashed garlic. The Joy of Cooking says to use one or the other. I use both. Secondly, where the 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice are concerned, The Joy of Cooking offers a choice of using alternatively the same quantity of either wine or vinegar. I stick with the lemon juice, since the possible choices among wines and vinegars add more variation than I'm prepared to deal with. To get on with it, wash each artichoke, holding it by the stem and dipping it down and up quickly in a bowl of cold water. Then, tear off the bottom row of tough leaves and cut off the stem at the level of the remaining bottom leaves. Rub what remains after the stem has been severed with a sliced lemon to avoid discoloration. Then trim the top leaves by slicing across one quarter of the way down the artichoke. To do this properly, be certain to have a sharp knife with an unserrated blade, and be prepared to apply considerable elbow grease. Meanwhile, boil two inches of water in the bottom of the kettle or steamer along with all the listed ingredients except the butter or sauce. Then insert the artichokes top down into the steamer or atop a trivet if using a kettle. Cover and steam for approximately 45 minutes or until tender, which can depend upon the size of the artichoke. Serve with melted butter to which lemon juice has been added, Hollandaise sauce, or Bechamel sauce.