How to Prep an Artichoke
Ever wonder how to get those beautifully prepared hearts from such a burly and bulbous artichoke? Preparing an artichoke isn't something only those in Italy
need to learn, and it can be mastered by learning a few basic steps. Whether you’re steaming them whole or wanting to get to the heart of the matter (excuse the pun), these simple steps will help you become a pro at trimming an artichoke.
First and foremost, make sure you’re buying the right artichokes at the store. You’re looking for heavy, firm bulbs that are a healthy green color and have a compact center. Stay away from ones that are brown and have been aerated. It’s best to cook your artichokes as soon as possible but they can last up to five to seven days. Store them in a tightly sealed bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Preparing an artichoke for a simple steam is easy. You’ll want to cut about 1 inch from the top so that the inner leaves are exposed, so that they cook evenly. If you’re planning to plate them standing up, remove the stem from the bottom. Otherwise, only cut off about a half an inch, because the stem is a continuation of the heart, which you can enjoy when you get to the middle. For restaurant-style presentation, use kitchen shears to trim off the sharp thorns on the ends of each petal, though this step isn’t necessary, for the thorns soften during the cooking process.
Trimming an Artichoke
Trimming an artichoke down to its core is something that many people shy away from, but it’s easier than you think. To start, have a bowl of water with a few squeezes of lemon ready to serve as a bath for your trimmed artichoke hearts. It’s also good to have a half of a lemon on hand to rub over the artichoke as you trim. The acid in the lemon prevents the artichoke from browning and helps to maintain that lustrous green color.
Begin by cutting an inch from the top of the artichoke and trimming the bottom of the stem. For artichoke hearts, it’s important to leave the stem intact because it is just as tender as the heart, so only trim a little bit from the end. Then, start peeling away the outer, tougher leaves until you reach pale yellow, tender leaves that, with the stem, resemble a rosebud. Rub the leaves and the stem with half of your lemon before going any further.
The next step of the process is widely debated. Many people like trimming an inch from the top of the tender leaves, and then cutting the heart in half lengthwise. We here at The Daily Meal feel it’s easiest to grip the ends of the leaves and pull them off in one fell swoop. This will expose the choke of the artichoke, a fuzzy, hairy part that you’ll want to remove. The easiest way to do it is to gently scrape away the fuzz using a spoon — take heed, for you don’t want to scrape away too much of the delicious heart. We find it’s easiest to do it with something small like a teaspoon or sharp like a grapefruit spoon. Once you remove all of the fuzz, rub the surface with lemon again.
Finally, you’ll want to trim away the rough surfaces from the base and the stem. Using a paring knife, slowly peel away the darker green edges from the base, rubbing with lemon as you go. For the stem, hold the base upright in your non-dominant hand and peel away the outer skin down to the bottom. As soon as you’re finished with this step, you have your artichoke heart. Store them in the lemon water bath while you trim the rest of your artichokes.
(Photos Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockPhoto)
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce