Thursday, October 24, 2013

Whole Roasted Artichokes

My father was a huge fan of pickled artichoke hearts. As a kid, they were too much for me, too much vinegar, too much... flavor. Even though I can eat them today, remembering my childhood aversion to them still makes my esophagus... uncomfortable. (I'm not going to say the thought makes me gag... but it comes close.) Unfortunately, this meant that until my mid-20s, whenever anyone said "artichoke," I thought of those floppy, briny veggies that I always avoided on the salad bar.

Over time, like most of my childhood food preferences, my aversion to this particular vegetable melted away as I was introduced to various other treatments of this divine thistle. Artichoke pizza, artichoke soup, spinach-artichoke dip... they've all contributed to the rise of the artichoke on my favorite veggies list.

So, every time I walked through the produce section I was drawn to these beautiful giant green flower buds.
I've always been intimidated as well. Everything that I've read says that whole fresh artichokes are way too much hassle for the small amount of reward. So much inedible, fibrous greenery with just a tiny little nugget of tasty yumminess.
Ultimately, I was pushed over the edge by an appetizer. Whole artichokes, steamed or boiled. Each individual leaf dipped in a mayo-centric dipping sauce. You scrape each leaf along your teeth, enjoying the combination of creamy mayo and the soft vegetable.

I had never tried it.

After an afternoon's worth of prowling the internet, I found this beautiful post. I have not met a single vegetable that is not made better by spending some time in a hot oven, drizzled with olive oil and salt. This one included another favorite... roasted garlic. Whole cloves are roasted inside the artichoke, adding flavor, but also becoming little nuggets of love on their own.

I'll admit, I was surprised and a little disappointed by how little flesh there was on these leaves. In my mind's eye, each leaf contributed a whole bite's worth... This is far from the truth. As I moved my way down to the center the disappointment withered with each bite. On one regular artichoke, there are a lot of leaves.
Inside, the artichoke starts to look more and more like the flower that it was once destined to become. These leaves are more tender, almost becoming edible themselves.
Once you get down to the choke, the real fun starts. Given the long roasting time in a hot oven, pulling the choke off of the heart is as easy as pulling the white fuzzies off of a dandelion seed head. Just use the edge of a spoon to start the process and pull the fibrous top section away.
(Don't bother trying to eat any of this, these "hairs" are very similar in texture to the pin bones on a fish. They're also quite a bit more bitter than the rest of the artichoke.)

The heart is your prize. Your reward for plowing through the leaves, one tiny morsel at a time. Now you get to sink your teeth in, enjoying a couple of true mouthfuls (mouths-full?) of this fancy treat.
Granted, after all this work there is not much edible goodness. Thankfully, there is an easy way to alleviate this problem...

Make two.

No comments:

Post a Comment