Thursday, April 22, 2010

Artichoke Flowers to fill and eat

Here's an easy way to jazz up serving whole artichokes the next time you want to impress your significant other or dinner guests. It's so easy you don't need to wait for company to try this simple. I'm currently in web site revamp purgatory so haven't had much time to write posts, so I thought I would get this easy and eye appealing way to serve artichokes, before they are finished here for the season.  So many artichoke recipes so little time left, even if they are in season from December to the beginning of May. I still have several recipes I haven't gotten to. In the mean time, pick up some fresh artichokes. We have a wide range of varieties here, but the best one for this trick are the ones that are long and pointy. That is not what are in these pictures, so don't let that stop you, but the longer ones will make a more dramatic presentation.
You can use a variety of fillings for the filling of your artichokes, but a simple home made mayonnaise with garlic is always a classic favorite. I also made a filling that is sort of like a pesto mixed with a bit of tomato paste that makes a tasty alternative to the mayo filling, but haven't been able to find my photo of it. I haven't added a formal recipe for mayo, but here are a couple of links to a classic mayo recipe here, which is made by hand whisking  and a video from Chef John's Foodwishes series, using an immersion wand to make it in a flash. I make it both ways, but find the wand method so easy especially when I just toss in my garlic to boot and faster than I can type up this post, you've got mayo to go on anything.
Artichoke Flowers

Start first by preparing 4 artichokes.
I start by trimming up the stem, making sure to keep as much as possible as the stem is quite tasty. You just remove the bottom part that is dry or very tough. them peel the outer tough skin off of the stem. Leave the stem attached to the artichoke while you steam them, as it makes them easier to handle. 
Remove  a few of the outer leaves, by gently pulling back on them till they snap off. Remove a couple of rows around the base of the artichoke.
 These were early season artichokes and therefore fairly tender, but you may need to remove more of the outer leaves it they seem too tough.  Do take care, as the spiny varieties are fierce and will put up a fight when you attempt to remove them.
Take your knife and cut at an angle to remove the outer leaves tapering towards the tip. It will pronounce the taper and make them very pointed. You are removing the bits that you wouldn't normally eat, and still have some leaf to pull them off with.
Bring enough salted water to a boil and either steam the artichokes above the water or plunge them into the water and cook until tender.  You will know they are done when a knife inserted at the base in towards the heart feels easy to pierce. Remove from heat and cool enough to handle.
Take the artichokes by the stem, turn point towards the work table. Gently splay the leaves out from the middle and press the artichoke directly on the table to fan the leaves out. Use enough force to open  it up.  Trim the stem from the base making sure the artichoke will sit up on it's own. Turn right side up to make sure it is suitably opened. If not them repeat the pressing directly o the table till it is open. Take a small teaspoon and remove the choke part in the very enter of the leaves. Now you will have a small cavity to fill with garlic caper mayonnaise, or whater ever combination suits you. Chives or other herbs are a nice addition as well.
 

My pesto concoction consisted of chopping garlic, basil, and pine nuts together. Then adding a small amount of olive oil to make a bit of a paste. Then added some tomato paste to achieve  a pliable  paste. Then I added ground parmesan and and bread crumbs to make a crumbly texture and a bit of salt if needed. I just keep adjustig the amounts as I go along to achieve a moist crumbly and flavorful paste that I plave in the middle of the choke and  sprinkle around. I'm sure you can come up with a few other filling was well. Bagna cauda comes to mind as well, warm garlicky  anchovy sauce comes to mind too.
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