A lot of cooks are intimidated by artichokes, which are thorny on the outside and filled with the sharp "choke" on the inside (I always wonder, with foods like these, how it was discovered that they were edible at all). As a result, it seems that people typically just steam or boil artichokes whole. This is, of course, a delicious and perfectly appropriate way to enjoy the vegetable, especially when you dip the leaves in melted butter. But it's really not that hard to trim an artichoke for use in all kinds of dishes: a little time consuming, maybe, but definitely worth it. And even though the method might seem wasteful, all of what you'll be left with will be tender and easy to eat. Here's how you do it:
1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top portion of the artichoke, which will remove many of the spiny tips of the leaves. Remove the leave that are lower down and do not get trimmed--they're too tough to eat.
2. Trim artichoke stem, removing a slice from the very bottom as well as a thin layer from the sides. Don't throw the stem away! It tastes similar to the heart and is the second-best part of the artichoke. Trim away any excess material at the base of the artichoke where the stem is attached.
3. Slice the artichoke in half, exposing the (very pretty) choke, which you'll want to get rid of.
4. Use a teaspoon, or, even better if you have it, a grapefruit spoon to scoop out all of the fluffy (but deadly!) choke. You'll be able to see where it meets the artichoke bottom. Rinse the artichoke halves under water to make sure you get it all out.
I used the above artichokes in a roast chicken dinner, so stayed tuned for that post.