Thursday, March 7, 2013

Artichokes with The Best Dipping Oil

If Carrie Bradshaw knows shoes, I know artichokes. (And maybe a little about shoes, too, LOL!) I've spent nearly half my life near Half Moon Bay, CA, the artichoke capital of the world (well Castroville is,  technically, but it's close enough to the Bay Area that we got them all the time!) and grew up eating them with melted butter. I really didn't think there could be anything better than butter, but - dare I say it? - this is!

When I saw these beauties in the farmer's market, the man who helped me said he doesn't make them because he "heard they're too much trouble." Then, last night at dinner while my husband was eating his, he said, "Why don't we eat these more often? Oh yeah - they're a lot of trouble." Whaaa? My response to Jeff was, "So's riding a mountain bike over the Continental Divide" (which he did once.) He got the message.

Serves 2 hungry people, just increase the quantities for dipping oil if you want to make more.

2 large artichokes, thoroughly rinsed: pick ones with firmly packed leaves that haven't fanned out
8 sprigs plus 1 rounded TB minced thyme leaves
7 cloves garlic: 4 whole, 3 finely minced
1 lemon
3/4 c EVOO
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, equal parts white and green, finely chopped
1 oz (shot glass) dry white wine aged in an aluminum barrel

Fill a large, wide stock pot with a couple of inches of water and the juice of half a lemon. Prepare the 'chokes: trim off the stem, cut off the thorny leaf tips with scissors, and cut about 1/4 of the top part off so the top of the blossom is exposed (I find a serrated knife works best for cutting the tops off.) Dip the chokes upside down in the lemon water to prevent it from browning and then place right side up in the pot. Fill with water to cover about 3/4 of the chokes. Drizzle with 1/4 cup EVOO. Add the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Add a couple of tsp of salt and a tsp of black pepper. 

Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 35-40 minutes until the flesh on the tough outer leaves and stem are completely soft. A leaf in the second outer layer should pull out easily: test that one to see if the flesh at the base of the leaf is soft. Use tongs to grab and hold the chokes upside down over the pot to drain out all the water and set upright to cool on a plate with sides.

While the artichokes are cooling, make the dipping oil. Heat 1/2 c EVOO in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook them about 3 minutes, then add the minced garlic and cook another 2 minutes till all are soft but not browned. Add the wine and cook off the alcohol. Add the minced thyme, the juice from the 2nd lemon half, and a couple of healthy pinches of kosher salt. Stir to combine and remove from heat to steep, blend flavors, and cool down.

Once the artichokes have cooled enough to work with, gently pull apart the leaves and scoop out the hairy chokes with a spoon. The top of the choke will look like this:

Serve the 'chokes on a salad or soup plate with individual bowls of dipping oil. Click on the picture below to see what the artichoke looks like with the hairy choke removed and heart exposed.

(You know how to eat a 'choke, right? Pull off the leaves, dip them in oil, grabbing some scallion and garlic, and draw the leaf in between your teeth to pull off the flesh, saving the heart for last: that's your reward for all the "trouble"!)

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