A perfect artichoke can be elusive. If it’s undercooked, it’ll be tough and stringy. If it’s overcooked, slimy and mushy. When it’s perfect it will be silky, creamy and hold together well.
The perfect recipe starts with the perfect vegetable. Choose a large bulb, with leaves packed as tightly as possible. Open leaves indicate an older artichoke that is more likely to be tough and woody.
Don’t worry if your artichoke has light brown blemishes. These are typically caused by frost that can sometimes occur in the later winter and early spring. Though it doesn’t look pretty, these “frost kissed” artichokes are rumored to be sweeter and more flavorful than their clear-skinned counterparts.
Artichokes pair beautifully with aioli of almost any flavor, but I prefer mine prepared simply with olive oil, lemon and parsley.
How To Make A Perfect Steamed Artichoke
- 1 large artichoke
- 1/4 lemon
- high-quality olive oil
- coarse sea or kosher salt
- fresh chopped parsley
- lemon oil (optional)
Use a large, sharp knife and cut off the top third of the artichoke. Peel off the smallest bottom leaves, and use scissors to trim the sharp thorn tips off each of the remaining leaves. Use the knife to cut the stem off close to the bulb, making the cut as straight as possible so the artichoke can easily sit upright without tipping over.
Fill a deep stock pot with 1/2 inch of water and bring to boil. Place cleaned artichoke face down in the water, reduce heat to simmer, cover with a lid and set a timer for 20 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time.
When the timer goes off, use tongs to turn the artichoke so it sits upright. Gently drizzle olive oil over the artichoke, being sure it drips down between the leaves and into the heart. Sprinkle generously with salt. Add another 1/2 – 1 cup water to the pot so the depth is back to 1/2 inch. Cover again and reset timer another 20 minutes.
After the second timer goes off, use tongs to try and remove an outer leaf. If it pulls off easily, turn off the pot and transfer artichoke to a serving plate. If the leaf does not tear off easily, replace the lid on the pot and steam an additional 5 minutes, no more.
Squeeze lemon slice over the leaves and sprinkle parsley. If you have lemon oil, gently drizzle it over the artichoke. If you don’t have lemon oil but would like some additional lemon flavor, a little lemon zest will create a similar effect; drizzle with some regular olive oil if you don’t use lemon oil. Add a few more sprinkles of salt and serve.
How To Eat A Perfect Steamed Artichoke
An artichoke is a wonderful, dramatic hors d’oeuvre usually intended to serve several people. Provide an additional bowl for guests to place their discarded leaves.
To eat, remove a leaf from the artichoke bulb and scrape the meaty part off with your teeth. Discard the rest of the leaf. When the artichoke is cooked perfectly, as yours should be, the inner leaves should be tender enough to be eaten whole.
When you get to the center of the artichoke, remove the remaining tiny leaves with your hands, and use a large spoon to scoop out the fuzzy hairs in the center of the heart, as demonstrated in the video below. Cut the heart into 6-8 pieces and make sure everyone gets a slice.
Eat slowly and enjoy.
Originally published April 24, 2011.