The Tart Heart of the Artichoke Folk

Before I was taught how at work, every time I’ve attempted to do anything with an artichoke, I’ve ended up with just a pile of leaves and bits.

I imagined that they’re a kind of bleak French existential joke for the rest of us. You know the one where at the end of our quest there is nothing. Not that socialist nihilism is doing them too badly according to Ahmed Bouzid [thanks Brian Bahnisch] . Although one has to ask if the assumptions are all wrong and France has insufficient teen pregnancy and too high maths skills to aspire to God’s chosen free market. But I wander off.

Artichokes are, in short, where one of the truck drivers in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear reveals to us, just before he dies, that behind the fence was nothing. (Nearly the finest moment in cinema) And what was it that Kurtz saw before his death? What does one see in the darkness? And if we cannot see it, is it there? Let me light a candle, dressed like Dorothy Lamour, and show you where the centre lies.

artichoke artichoke

First, make yourself a bowl of acidulated water with the juice of a lemon. This will stop the artichoke browning. Cut the stem of just as it begins to taper out to the base. Peel the stem back until the white is shown. Place it in the water.

artichoke

Lop the top third off. A bread knife makes it easier.

artichoke artichoke

Peel away some of the leaves and trim around the base to the white up to the part where it break up into individual leaves.

artichoke artichoke

Slice the rest of the top off and use a teaspoon to to scrape out the fibrous centre that is the choke.

artichoke artichoke

Trim the top. And tadah! Place it in the acidulated water and then do what you like with it. It’s traditionally tasty boiled and the placed on a steak with a bernaise sauce.

Unrelated but quite important: Thanks to Sue

and Saffy for pointing out I had a nice plug written for this blog in the Sydney Morning Herald. Hello if you’ve come from there. I’ll share one part: “tempting recipes that go well beyond the basics” . Which is kind of true but I’d hate to think people had the impression that they were difficult. I suspect it may be a lack of clarity in the instructions – so if you aren’t sure what I’m going on about, I’m always happy to explain further*. And cheers to whoever was responsible for the piece.


*assuming I know what I’m going on about.

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35 comments

  1. Laird Maresch’s avatar

    Nice piece on demonstrating the art of getting to the heart. For myself I love trimming of the sharp bits, then cutting the artichoke in half. I remove the flower part then generously rub a lemon vinaigrette all over the whole thing. This takes care of the oxidation problem and the favor part. After that I toss on the grill and smoke till tender and tasty. While it cooks I usually make a honey mustard sauce.

  2. Anthony’s avatar

    M’ Laird

    Thanks. That solves, the what do I do with it bit. Artichokes are all over the place and if we get a nice bit of synchronicity with the weather then it’s BBQ.

    I was pretty chuffed that the $30 worth of artichokes at work I had to do ended up with something remaining, so I thought I’d share.

  3. Stephanie’s avatar

    That’s fantastic!

    The MIL loves artichokes (we routinely avoid them, I’m afraid), so knowing the proper way to slaughter them is much appreciated…thanks!

  4. Sue’s avatar

    You’re welcome, man. It always seems like one of lifes great tricks that the artichoke should be so beautiful yet the bit we eat is so ugly. There’s something in that…

    Erm, are you wearing nail polish?!

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Stephanie
    Long a mystery to me, here’s hoping things’ll be sweet from now on with the MIL.

    Sue
    Well yes it is. If reptiles had flowers.

    and a sarong.

  6. moni’s avatar

    excuse me,
    just a tiny weiny question,
    is the artichoke originally
    from France?

  7. Anthony’s avatar

    Mon have a look here Artichokes, History and Legends of Artichokes for all you’ll ever need to know.

    It’s not specifically from France but they do go on about them the most.

  8. Kate’s avatar

    I’ve always bought the pre-done artichokes in the jar, meself, but you make it look veeeeery easy. Too easy.

  9. deborah’s avatar

    You are special MTC. Because you have shown me a much easier way to get to the heat of the art.

    A question: is that peach coloured polish on your finger nails?

  10. Anthony’s avatar

    Kate
    One you see it done, it is pretty easy, though a slow process.

    Don’t thank me, thank chef.
    “Do you know how to peel an artichoke”
    “erm ahmm yea no.”
    It’s “Kashi” a kind of middle of the raod pink with a slight gloss.

  11. Wozza’s avatar

    Wozza here mate,
    tell me its not true,WHAT has the city done to you!
    Mons a bit worried, she said you could have at least worn a glossy red!

  12. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Congratulations on the mention. You are a remarkable guy and truly deserve the accolades!

  13. Gracianne’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,
    Your blog has been in my favorites for a long time now. Never left a comment, but, being french and therefore an artichoke specialist, let me suggest an italian recipe to enjoy them. Slice the hearts, fry them in a lot of olive oil with garlic and chili, salt and pepper. When they are golden, add half a glass of dry white wine, cook for another minute and mix with al dente spaghetti. Don’t forget the parmiggiano. Simple et bon!

  14. Anthony’s avatar

    Wozza
    Yeah no worries cob, skipped the waxing. Kashi says married man and matches my skin tones.

    Reid
    Ah shucks matey, you’re too kind – it’s people like you that got me through the nobody reads my blog days. I thought a few omissions in the article but hopefully the tide lifts alls ships or something (actually that sounds like dodgy Reagonomic but anyway).

    Gracianne
    Welcome, lovely to hear. I’m glad we could coax you into a comment. I’ll have to give your recipe a try, it’s a great suggestion, looking forward to more in the future

  15. Anonymous’s avatar

    That’s the third best post I’ve seen that combines two of my favourite tastes – artichokes and The Wages Of Fear.

    In return Ants, I offer you this fun link.
    http://www.foodtimeline.org/

    Notice how seafood and beer are there almost from the start?

    Nabakov

  16. mon’s avatar

    ahh, Devo
    all these farmies wives, want to know if you can do a big hearty meal, or tell us one to feed big hungry farmers, something different, not with lamb, (no offence)and not with patatoes.

    these are the girls that luv and now read your site and sometimes pretend they are me cause they are all shy. and im not
    (sorry girls kate, sam, jude, cheryl, danny ,pam and my 4 sisters )

  17. Anthony’s avatar

    ooh Thanks Nabs
    I’d given up all on making it onto the podium for Wages of Fear/artichoke combo post (don’t tell me the other two, I’m a resentful man). It must have been a long dark time in human history with ice and water on the menu. And who would have thought we’ve come this far for 2004 to be “New products from Kraft”. I think a peak at beer and seafood and then a long slow deevolution.

    Hey Mon
    I’d also never dared imagine that there were people who read this blog but never commented. Nice of you to dob them in. Don’t be shy ladies and gents, this is the gentle world of food blogging. Hello to whoever it is in North Lake Grace too.

    I’ll do something non lamb and hearty soon for you all. In the mean time maybe something porky from the archives:

    Marmalade & Ginger Pork with Sage and Apple Stuffing

    Pork Belly Braised with Little Creatures Pale Ale with Cabbage and Stoemp

  18. Santos’s avatar

    huzzah and hurrahs for the media attention!

    and since you are going on about france and artichokes, i have heard tale that during WW2 and the nazi occupation of france, officers often took over whole households as headquarters. the kitchen staff would be ordered to serve the very best of french cuisine, and more often than not, they would serve whole, steamed artichokes, without instructions as to how to eat them. the officers would refuse to seem uncouth by asking how to eat them, and gnaw through the prickly leaves and gristle, whilst the hostage staff would get a small measure of revenge.

  19. Anthony’s avatar

    Woohoo! As with Reid

    Fine bit of history there Santos, I missed that in my extensive review of WWII via Commando comics. Apparemtly the only people that did anything were plucky Brits.

  20. Stephanie’s avatar

    Just wanted you to know…EoMEoTE round-up has posted…

  21. Anthony’s avatar

    Just went there, it’s great Stephanie. It’s here people: EoMEoTE#11—The Round-up

  22. Santos’s avatar

    i’m pretty sure the only historical details i know about WW2 involve food. and the OSS via Wonder Woman comics.

  23. Gracianne’s avatar

    I know it may seem impolite to come and read and not even say hello. Sorry..but english is not my language, and I must admit I felt rather shy adding a comment when I don’t get all the subtleties of what is written here – for example it took me a while to understand what EVOO meant :). I know there is humour in it though, and great food, and strange ingredients and customs from the other end of the world, so I keep coming. I’ll try to be more polite in the future.
    Gracianne from former nazi occupied France.

  24. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I tried to look for the article at the Sydney Morning Herald site, but couldn’t locate it (you’ve had a couple write ups there already huh?). Any chance of you posting the link to the article for me? I’d be interested in hearing what they had about you and the blog.

    BTW…thanks for the lesson. It’s too difficult for me to want to prepare artichokes. Maybe that’s why I only eat them when others make them! =)

  25. The Daily Magnet’s avatar

    Gracianne – don’t worry about english not being your language – you seem to know a lot more than I do & I live right here – the artichoke recipe btw, yummo! Make it brown rice and I’d be a devotee.

  26. Anthony’s avatar

    Gracianne
    Not at all. Frankly speaking (if you’ll pardon the pun) you write better than me and I don’t understand half of what I write anyway. We hates Nazis too. Your comments are always welcome and plus you’d have the bonus of being our resident French person – your nation is counting on you.

    Hi Reid
    No link but it was a short piece at the end of the artcile from the Guardian (?) on Pim. I shall now reveal it in its entirety

    http://www.manthatcooks.com
    Exactly what you want from a quality food blog. Tempting recipes that go well beyond the basics, plus plenty of insight into the ongoing escapades of a chef on the road to mastering the epicurean arts.

    No worries for the lesson, don’t do enough technical stuff.

    DM
    I too am pretty clueless. Was a good recipe wasn’t it?

  27. monique’s avatar

    hey,
    im a kinda mungrel frenchie
    i cant write or speak in either
    English or French

  28. Gracianne’s avatar

    Well, thank you all for the kind welcome, it is very much appreciated.
    DM, try the artichoke risotto, italians really do know how to cook veggies: http://www.recipelink.com/cookbooks/2004/1580084893_2.html
    A good day to all from sunny Paris.

  29. Anthony’s avatar

    Mon
    Isn’t your Dad from Mauritius or something or have I got my stories mixed up?

    Gracianne
    Your welcome, all friendly folk here.

  30. monique de Gaye’s avatar

    Yep, (that was my old name)
    they all speak french
    and they are called French Maurtian
    My dad speaks and writes beautifully in French.

    just a soap update
    will in shops soon!

  31. monique’s avatar

    oops,
    sorry scrap all that,
    all that ive belived for so long is a load of crap,
    my dad just said that they speak (french) Creole, basically slang French.
    GEES, now im a slang mungrel.
    holy shmoly,
    how skanky am i.

  32. Manas’s avatar

    Gracianne,

    don’t stress. I’ve been reading spicy for ages now, and still only understand about 50% of what he writes, I think. ;-)

    And yes, I couldn’t work out what EVOO was for ages either, until my partner, with a withering look reminded me, ‘Um…Extra Virgin Olive Oil’. You don’t need to live in France to not understand the hip cooking vernacular!!

    Anthony thanks for this. I’ve never cooked with them before, but I do like eating artichokes. Pity you can’t stick them in a vase though, because they look so spectacular.

  33. Anthony’s avatar

    Madame de Gay
    You’re all lady and besides Australian is the creols of the English speaking world. Think they’re impressed but “gettadogupya” in London? No sireeee

    Manas
    If I can make my blog more incomprehensible than the legal texts you have to trawl through, then my job is done.

    Spiceblog operates on standard religious cult protocol of common sense platitudes like “fresh is good”, the contradictory “four hours meals are quick and easy”, and unnecessary jargon like EVOO and geoculinary. Manliness is the supreme virtue, paradise is promised if the steps are followed, seemingly harmless acts like eating nutrigrain are rendered sinful and then there are the miracles like the “making of the pancake cake after pub”.

    You’re welcome – this is wisdom straight from Chef. I’ll tell Rob to forget the roses and go a bunch of artichokes next time.

  34. flygirl’s avatar

    spicey, congrats on the smh mention! go stick it to dem ners at cookingforengineers.com!

  35. Anthony’s avatar

    Hey thanks flygirl. I’ve striven to be the very antithesis of the clear analytical mind. I also know a few engineers and how they need a site like that (no offence fellers).

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