Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Joke Artichoke

Years ago I tried cooking artichokes. It was a huge disaster. They were under — over — cooked, with tough outer leaves and an interior full of hairy choke. Discussing. Honestly, one of the worst things I've ever made.

How did the first people to eat them even guess that they might be editable? After that incident I avoided the intimidating food. The only artichokes to cross my kitchen's threshold were marinated and canned.

The problem is, Kevin LOVES the spiky veggies. He always points them out at the market, reminding me how much he likes them. Usually, I ignore his comments. Or try to distract him by point out how good the peaches look. But this week, I surprised even myself, asking for a bunch of baby artichokes along with my usual carrots and peas.

Once I got them home, I was determined to have a better experience then last time. To start, I cut off the point tips of the leaves. Picking off the outer leaves, I was overwhelmed by what was discarded before coming to something that I deemed as potentially food.

At this point I should have tossed them with lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing. But, being new to artichoking, I didn't know that yet. Next, I quartered them and removed the choke with a pairing knife.

To cook the artichokes lightly sautéed them with some olive oil, onions, and garlic. Then I added about a cup of chicken stock and let them braise for 20 minutes or so. To the braising liquid I also added a few left over chickpeas, some cherry tomatoes cut in half, and the leftover chicken from Sunday's bird.

When the artichokes looked soft, I thickened the liquid with some butter. This would make a wonderful pasta sauce, but since I was out of pasta, I poured everything over a plate of bugler.

It was an unexpectedly delicious meal: very light, but satisfying. Best of all, it made me want to cook artichokes again. I still didn't remove enough of the tough outer leaves, but it was certainly an improvement from my last attempt. The artichokes permeated the broth with a deep, earthy flavor and paired will with the chicken, chickpeas, and tomatoes.

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