“People shouldn’t fear artichokes,” urges Pat Hopper, manager of the California Artichoke Advisory Board. So, step away from the Brussels sprouts and go for the artichoke. Here’s what to do.
SELECT Avoid puffballs and those with open petals (signs of age and overripeness). Hold one well-shaped, tightly closed artichoke in each of your hands. “Go with the heavier of the two, which has more water content and better edibility,” says Hopper, who also recommends soaking it at home to rehydrate it.
PREPARE Rinse and cut off the stem so it sits flat. Lop about an inch off the pointed top. If leaves are sharp, you can trim them with scissors, but it’s personal preference; they’ll soften with cooking.
STEAM (OR NUKE) In a pot with about two inches of boiling, lightly salted water (garlic, lemon, olive oil and even a bay leaf are other popular additives), cook covered in a steaming basket for 25 to 45 minutes (depending on size) until a petal can be pulled out easily. Time-crunch method: Put a wet artichoke in plastic wrap, microwave upside down for 3 to 7 minutes; test by poking a toothpick into the (tender-when-done) stem area.
DISCARD INEDIBLES Peel away hard, stringy outer petals. Either separate the inner petals and dig out the choke (aka the fuzzy stuff) with a spoon or melon baller prior to eating — or just wait and scrape it off when you get to the heart. “The latter is easier and not a faux pas,” says Hopper. “It was Julia Child’s preferred method when she came to visit us years ago.”
GRIP, PULL, DRAG AND SIGH Pull out each warm, meaty petal one at a time, dunk in your dip of choice (we like warm butter and lemon juice), place in mouth and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, ambrosial portion of the petal. Discard remaining portion. Repeat until petals become papery thin or you arrive at the discardable purple leaves, the fuzz and — the just reward for time well spent — the heart. Quarter it and savor slowly with closed eyes and a lightly nodding head. Eat your heart out, Thomas Aloysius Dorgan.