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May 2019

1000 words on making (and eating) the artichokes

I make the artichokes about once a year. They’re messy and just for me, so. 

But worth it as an annual treat! And I found a recipe that’s pretty much what Mom did so I just follow that, with a couple very minor changes. 

Do you know about eating stuffed artichokes, people who aren't my brothers? It's a little performance you put on for yourself in sensuous leisure. You pull off the outer leaves and scrape the breadcrumbs and bit of soft interior with your teeth. As you go farther in, there are fewer breadcrumbs, but more interior to scrape and enjoy, and you can squeeze a little lemon juice over them if you wish. When you get to the center, where the purple leaves are, you can eat those, but the ends are slightly prickly. Purpleheart
Then! You have an alien encounter that really quite put me off when I was a child. I wish I'd had the opportunity to eat artichokes with my mom when I was an adult so I could tell her I understand now. Mom had a trick of pulling the purple bit up so the next paragraph tells a slightly different story, but I always just eat that part and make myself deal with what comes next.

You see, you next encounter fur. I expect there's an official name for it, but it's fur. It's just a camouflage, though, because beneath it is all good eating, straight to the bottom of the plate. That's where the heart is, and when you scoop up your first taste with a fork or spoon, you'll understand why it is considered a delicacy. Mom managed to pull up the fur with the purple bit, but I always have to scrape it away. I have put the picture of this in a separate link because it's a little off-putting, and if you have the bizarre problem I have with pictures of holes where it feels, rightly or wrongly, that holes ought not to be, you might not like it. 

Now I’m going to tell you about those recipe changes and give you a couple tips in case you want to make them, too. So this isn't the recipe, okay? You click on the link above or below for that. This is just more chatter and a few not-very-good pictures.

First, I just use two artichokes instead of the three called for in the recipe, but the same amount of filling. This is because I can eat one and save one for the next day. A third would be too extra. 

After I stuff the outer leaves, I put some more filling on the top before drizzling oil over them, because Mom did that, plus the filling is delicious. There’s just a little left over to eat greedily while doing the final cleanup. And so that’s why filling for three works for two, for me. 

Mom used a pressure cooker, but I don’t have one of those. The artichokes do need to be snug in the pan and I used to just bake them in a glass dish, but I like this steaming first method better. So since my pan that fits two really wants three to be snug, I just tuck them to the side and add a placeholder. Panchokes
Then I have to switch to a different pan for the oven, but you might have one you can use which doesn’t have handles that would melt. 

As to the ingredients, you can leave out the lemon zest, but I agree with the recipe that it adds a nice brightness, so maybe don’t. (Do not leave out the rubbing lemon juice over the cut areas step.) However, my microplaner adds so much volume to the cheese, I know 1/3 cup isn’t enough. I really add more like 2/3. So it depends, and that’s why many recipes tell you how many ounces to use instead of volume. But if you’re using preshredded cheese from the deli dept. (Not The Can,) maybe just nudge it to 1/2 cup.

Also, Mom used parsley flakes, but I grow my own parsley so I don’t. Well, you may certainly still use parsley flakes, just use only a couple tablespoons that you crush lightly between your fingers, and if it’s very old, please throw it out and buy more. 

To be honest, I tend not to bother with the stems, but they do make good eating if you would like to bother with them. 

Finally, this is a very messy Thing to Do, so now I’m going to tell you about how to proceed so you can stop and tidy and not become overwhelmed.

Following this good recipe, be sure to get out everything you will need and prepare it for use. Well, first you wash your hands—lava le mani.* You can chop your garlic and parsley while the breadcrumbs are browning if you are sure you can keep an eye on them and stir them. They seem like they won’t brown and then all of a sudden are browning like mad, so watch out. Ingredients
While the breadcrumbs are cooling a bit (so the cheese won't melt when you mix it in,) you can clear the garlic and parsley debris, then trim your artichokes. Then, before you make the stuffing, clean up your artichoke mess and rearrange everything neatly, with your pan and lid ready nearby. 

Set your artichokes on a cutting board or wide plate to catch the filling that falls as you stuff. Use that filling to add to the top. Stuffing
Next, if your olive oil bottle seems like it’ll get away from you for the remaining tablespoon, pour just a little oil into a cup and then drizzle it onto the artichoke tops from the cup. 

Then while the artichokes are coming to a boil, which will happen quickly since there’s only a little (well-salted) water and you have the lid on, finish your cleanup, and if you eat any remaining filling greedily, well, that’s just a teaser of what’s to come.
Stuffedartichoke
 *Yes, random pedant, that's just how Mom said it.