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Artichokes - Conquering the thorny thistle. Help

Stuffed artichokes show up on almost every holiday table in my family - they were one of Grandma's (RIP) specialties I never realized how much work these suckers were. I tried to prepare some last week only for the second time. Once again I made quite a mess and once again I broke one in half - which actually was a good thing because it let me explode the anatomy of a choke just a bit. After looking at may recipes and other online tutorials I remain confused about some basic things

1. Remove the fuzzy part or not?
some recipes made this a primary objective - other's never mentioned its existence. Do I really need to? only when stuffing?

2. use the stem?
some said to chop it up and use in the stuffing - without peeling it was not appetizing - peeled it was virtually non existent

3. How much do I remove?
between removing the outer leaves, the inner purple ones, the tops off all remaining I feel like almost nothing was left - but all that seemed useless - just a lot of work and waste to get to the tasty part I guess.

4. Stuff the center?
So many recipes only mentioned stuffing between the leaves and never mentioned a big dollop of stuffing in the center of the choke - this seems like a big missed opportunity

5. How to spread the petals?
I felt like I was fighting them the whole time. Is there something I can do to make the bud more pliable? Soaking it perhaps?

All in all my chokes were tasty - stuffed with sardines, romano, breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon w egg binder but they were not pretty - any tips and trick for next time? Scissors for trimming the petals was the primary breakthrough

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  1. Jacques Pepin preps an artichoke:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF78n_...

    and here he does it again but a little faster (skip to 11:12):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alHc7j...

    5 Replies
    1. re: PinkLynx

      I always take out the fuzzy part. I always use the stem...it's hardly worth it but there's so much waste with artichokes I eat everything I can. They're such a PITA, personally I don't think they're worth it. I can lick some melted butter and be just as happy. Happier actually- because my kitchen won't stink of artichoke.

      1. re: PinkLynx

        that's a nice video - his chokes look much nicer and fresher than the ones I had or ever see at market - and his knife skills where he makes a cone out of the 3rd one are just amazing - good tutorial though - JP is always great.

        but I think my kitchen smelling like artichokes is a good thing LOL

        1. re: JTPhilly

          That's true, I always notice how much nicer his look than anything I've ever been able to get my hands on.

          1. re: JTPhilly

            I love the smell of artichokes steaming. I'd even buy an artichoke air freshener.

            1. re: tcamp

              I think we are in a very small niche market Tcamp

        2. I generally just steam mine and then go leaf by leaf to the center with a bowl of butter. But if you don't want to do that you can discard the tougher outter leaves. There's a lot of waste in artichokes. Then peel the bottom around where you took the tough leaves out. Then cut in 1/2. You will then see the choke, use a spoon and get the fuzzy bits out. Trim the top to neaten it all up and put in bowl of lemon water to keep them from getting too brown from the air. Then you can drizzle with some oil and grill. Or you can stuff the halves.

          1 Reply
          1. If you enjoy eating fiberglas insulation, you can eat the choke (the fuzzy part). Otherwise, remove it. If you halve an artichoke lengthwise, from tip to stem, you can remove it before cooking. If you want to cook and serve the vegetable whole, you'll need to scrape out the fuzz with a spoon after cooking.

            8 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              yeah, I assumed it needs to go yet so many recipes never even mention the thing

              I guess until I can wield a knife like JP its just going to be a messy affair

              1. re: JTPhilly

                I would submit that so many recipes do not mention removing the choke as it is assumed that the cook already knows to do this.

                Same as snapping asparagus, or peeling sweet corn before boiling. A given.

                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  http://www.food.com/recipe/italian-st...

                  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Stuffed-...

                  http://www.pauladeen.com/recipes/reci...

                  http://italianchef.com/2010/11/22/stu...

                  these are the four first bing results for stuffed artichokes - not one removes the choke -

                  epicurious is the first to have a recipe that explicitly removes the choke

                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                  after comparing several recipes removing the choke and creating a big pocket for stuffing made sense to me but none of the above do it hence my confusion -

                  it leaves me wondering if once made people even know where the heart is to eat it after prepared - artichokes are not the most common veg out there so it would be odd to assume such prior knowledge - its not like reminding people to peel a banana before putting it into a cake

                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                    "Same as snapping asparagus, or peeling sweet corn before boiling. A given."

                    The latter is pretty much common sense, while the former is not. If you are not very familiar with asparagus you may not know this.
                    Plus, I never do it anyway. I just cut off a small portion of the tail off and use the rest of the asparagus. Snapping wastes too much.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Snapped ends make a great cream of asparagus soup. Just have to mash them through strainer after cooking.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I cut off a bit of the bottom and then peel the bottom couple inches of the asparagus stalk.

                          1. re: John E.

                            That's what I do, but only when the bottom seems like it is a bit tough skinned; otherwise I don't even bother peeling.

                2. I remove the choke entirely using a tablespoon as a makeshift "spade" of sorts and stuff the center. As for spreading the petals, if you are buying fresh artichokes, they should open with a bit of prying (and "squeak"). I hold the artichoke over the bowl of stuffing mix and sprinkle/press the mixture between the leaves. By the time I am done, the artichoke is almost twice the size.

                  1. After eating the flesh on the leaves, I cut out the thistle layer with a small paring knife, going around the circumference at about a 15 degree angle downward, to get all of the thistles in one revolution without whittling away the heart. It certainly requires some practice which is well rewarded by the tasty heart with butter.

                    1. I trim the pointy petals with scissors, cut the base flat, peel the stem if there is much of one, and stuff the leaves (olive oil, bread crumbs, chopped garlic and a little romano or pecorino). I leave the choke in and each diner gets down to the "choke" and trims away themselves to get to the heart of the matter.

                      1. Dear JTPhilly,

                        There are about as many different types of artichokes as there are flowers or mushrooms. Plus, not all of them lend themselves to all preparations. You must carefully opt for the preparation fit to the type you can buy fresh near you. Some plants will yield up to three flowerings in a year, the early summer bloom being more tender than the later ones.
                        Much depends on how many days it took the darlings to land in your kitchen.

                        To cut this short: your first three questions depend mostly on what artichoke you bought and whether it was fresh. Fresh at the market in Rome where I buy them, means that less than 48h passed between harvest and you eating it.

                        Then indeed, cleaning them and getting rid of 60% of the volume as waste, makes you think. But it is worth it.

                        Try to find a type which white inner hart you find tasty when raw, dressed with just some olive oil, lemon and salt, possibly some shaved fennel, white mushroom and parmiggianno on top. Make that variety your benchmark for all other preparations.

                        Please disregards all recipes that tell you to boil, pre-steam or bake for 30 minutes or longer. This simply makes all the flavor evaporate and leaves you with a soggy mush. It will look like an artichoke, but will have no taste. If someone told you to boil a rose in salted water, or fry it in oil, what would you think?

                        I find stuffing and baking them, even with very fresh produce, a violation and close to murder. The preparation that yields the most aroma, is what the Pepin video shows between 5:40 and 6:50. Take of the outer leaves, shorten the stem, trim the dark green outer rims, continuously rub with a lemon, quarter them, take out the choke and use the soft white to yellowish inner parts.

                        Pan fry those quarters in butter mixed with olive oil, little salt, until slightly colored. Add finely diced shallots, finely cut (stems of) parsley. Then deglaze with a good white wine, cover the pan and lower the temperature. Keep the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes. Puts the wedges on plates, reduce the cooking juices, add lemon and grate some lemon peel and fresh pepper over the plates.

                        All the time you would have spent stuffing, can be invested in finding the right sauvignon blanc to drink with them.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: hblnk

                          "All the time you would have spent stuffing, can be invested in finding the right sauvignon blanc to drink with them."

                          But for some of us, stuffing and steaming (we don't bake them in my family) is a lifelong tradition. I do it, my mother did it, my grandmother did it and i assume my great grandmother also did it in Italy. While I have had artichokes prepared in many different ways, stuffed is is my favorite due to a 50 year love affair with them. I assume I am not the only one out here who feels this way.

                          Can't argue with that.

                          1. re: hblnk

                            Since I consume no alcohol, the white wine you suggest just does not work.

                            Stuffing for our family. No wine.

                            1. re: laliz

                              try lemon juice [perhaps diluted with some water] or a little vegetable/chicken broth

                            2. re: hblnk

                              your method described is very similar to what was served this past Easter on our family table - when I inquired about the recipe I was informed that I could only make them that way "right now" due to the best ones being in season and available at market. It was insanely good btw.

                              the artichokes typically available here are not as fresh as the ones in JP's video and I am sure a pale imitation of what you get at the market in Rome - we have some excellent produce available in the mid-Atlantic US but Artichokes are not really part of that mix for most of the year - stuffing then in a way to make the ones we do get tender and flavorful

                              I am starting to get an idea of how to apply the different recipes

                              when you have super fresh amazing artichokes -you can cook the heart lightly as hblnk does in Rome

                              when you have less fabulous chokes (or want to stuff them anyway for tradition's sake)you can

                              1. use the stuffing more as light breadcrumb dressing stuffing only between the petals as in many recipes and described by PinkLynx

                              OR

                              2. remove the choke to create a cavity which can hold a more significant amount of stuffing which makes particular sense when you are stuffing with a more intense stuffing that includes fish or whatnot. Now the artichoke becomes a vessel holding a meal with the heart as a prize at the bottom

                              makes more sense to me, I was mainly looking for the difference between removing the choke or not and I think I "get it" now.

                            3. I feel your pain. Ever since I had [very successful] gastric bypass surgery, I CANNOT eat an entire artichoke - and had to figure out a way to get to my grandmother's recipe and flavors as close as possible without making myself crazy.

                              I take off the stem, trim the artichoke until the bottom leaves snap, and take a kitchen shears to the pointy tops after lopping off the the top inch or so.

                              Then, into a covered pot where they'll stand up, along wiht about an inch of water, 1/2 lemon squeezed, and then the squeezed lemon added, and some salt. Cook until the bottom leaves come away easily. You might have to add a little more water... this should take about 30 minutes- sometimes less, sometimes more.

                              Then, let cool until you can handle them, and then whack them in half [top to bottom] with the sharpest knife you have. take a grapefruit spoon [works best], and take out the thistle part, leaving the choke surrounded by leaves.

                              Grandma stuffed these with equal parts of parsley and pecorino romano, with a couple of cloves of minced garlic [raw]. BUT she stuffed the artichokes before she cooked them.

                              I roast some garlic, then mash it into the parsley/cheese mixture when i'm ready to eat the artichoke half, lay the artichoke cut side up, and fill with the parsley/cheese/garlic. If i'm really ambitious, I fill the leaves as well. Drizzle with Olive oil, with a little water in the bottom of the pan, cover with foil, and reheat in a 300 degree oven.

                              Or one can take the Giada DeLaurentis approach and simply lay a nice slab of gorgonzola dolce on top of the artichoke after it's cooked, and then put it into the oven until the cheese melts. and, of course, there's always melted butter [i prefer a bit of added lemon]

                              1. If you fry them you can eat the fuzzy part, otherwise, you will choke.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: law_doc89

                                  "It may have choked Artie, but it ain't gonna choke Stymie!"

                                2. Save some serious time and labor...
                                  Steam the whole artichoke until tender. (As is, don't fuss with it)
                                  While its steaming make your stuffing mix, cooking any meat ingredients etc so the stuffing is totally done.
                                  Cut in half thru the stem and scoop out the choke.
                                  Stuff the cavity where the choke was, drizzle with olive oil or top with grated hard cheese and broil until the tops are golden.

                                  Less hassle, almost zero waste. Eat leaves from the middle going out to get stuffing in most bites. If the outer layer of stem is too tough to eat just peel away.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                    A very good idea and sounds like it makes for a nice presentation. Takes the fun out of having a whole artichoke in front of you and systematically eating it from the outside in to get to the prize heart in the center, but still a good idea for those who balk at the prep (which I don't mind).

                                  2. Answers: 1. Whatever floats your boat. 2. Yes, peeled stems are delicious. I only purchase chokes with large (thick) stems. For me, the best indicator of the quality of the choke. 3. Don't remove any. The small petals near the stem are usually too tough to eat but help hold the choke together when cooking. 4. I rarely stuff the center with "stuffing", using instead shrimp, oysters or lump crab meat. When I use anything else it is eggplant and shrimp dressing, augmented with minced peeled stem. 5. Parboiling the chokes for twenty minutes softens the choke and makes it easy to spread the petals and remove the "choke". Don't over cook or the choke may come apart when stuffing. If this happens finish the stuffed choke in individual bowls (the size of the stuffed choke) in the oven.

                                    1. I live not too far from the heart of artichoke country, so they're a staple here. I slice off the stems so the artichokes will sit nicely in a pot, add about an inch of water, throw the stems back in, and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the leaves can be plucked off easily. Then I just serve them as is, maybe with some garlic mayo if I'm feeling up to it. There is a lot of waste - there's only a small nibble of edible flesh on the leaves - so I put a separate bowl out on the table to throw the waste parts in.

                                      The stems are delicious - they taste like the hearts.

                                      I've made stuffed artichokes on rare occasions, and IMHO they're a lot of trouble. I sawed off the pointy tips, par-boiled them, scraped out the chokes, crammed the stuffing in, tied them up to keep their shape. Yeah, they were tasty, but I'm sticking with the simple steamed ones.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: tardigrade

                                        Imagine a nice wood japanese box with 3 inch high sides and about 18" square sitting between us on the couch. A couple of very hot small rolled up damp hand towels and a large empty bowl.
                                        I have steamed one large whole artichoke for each for us. Stems cut off and peeled and steamed also.
                                        I've made a dipping sauce small bowl of hot clarified butter to which I've added a very thin sliced raw garlic clove and a few very thin slices of raw ginger and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The bowl is handy for each of us to use.
                                        When the artichokes are barely cool enough to handle we simply pull off a 'petal' from the outside and dip it in the sauce then nibble off the edible end. We go round and round like this. The edible end of each petal gets larger and larger. Before we get to the 'choke' part there's a nice piece that we can dip and eat before getting to the centre 'choke' part.
                                        The edible part of each 'petal' is delicious and tender. By the time we've finished the whole thing all that's left is a big bowl of gnawed on petals and the furry little centre. There is a surprising amount of edible bits. You have to buy the largest artichokes you can find to make this work though.
                                        I serve a small platter of very thin cut room temperature strip loin steak we also eat with our fingers.
                                        Good for watching TV sports.
                                        Some small glasses of ice cold Tsingtao beer is a good pairing.

                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                          Try it with a pressure cooker, saves a lot of time

                                        2. I've stuffed them for almost fifty years andI fuind that if you core out the center then you really don;t have any resistance for the stuffing in the leaves, if that makes sense. I use the stem sometimes ut usually I just eat it without peeling--sometimes I am left with a little "cud." I saok mine in a bowl with water and vinegar because that is how my grandmother did it. I was told it chases off bugs..I dunno, I do it anyway. I am so tired of commercial ones that are nothing but breadcrumbs (it seems) that I carry on my own counterattack and I use garlic, cheese, chopped olives, ham or sometimes salami, anchovies. capers sometimes, maybe bacon or andouille, lemon juice. I have even cut up pecans and thrown them in. I usually make a little aluminum foil wrap around the bottom and pour olive oil over the whole thing and then let them boil gently for 40 minutes or so.

                                          When I have cored them, I often put a beanaise or hollandaise in the cavity. I also make a summer salad of one half, split lengthwise and de-fuzzed and put viniagrette in the cavity..