To Cut An Artichoke

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For months now I have watched Mario Batali cut artichokes on “Molto Mario,” demanding the participation of this three guests and charging that “it’s really easy and really worthwhile.” What’s infuriating (but admirable) is that he takes the time, each time, to explain the process to his audience. The religious viewer is left irritated at the repetition: “Ok, Mario,” you want to say, “I know how to cut an artichoke.”

I said that very thing last week watching him on Tivo when I had an idea. “I have an idea,” I said to myself. “Let’s buy some artichokes and see if I really do know how to cut an artichoke.”

And thus this post was born.

To cut an artichoke, you begin by cutting the tip off the stem. (The stem, says Mario, is just as flavorful as the heart if prepared correctly.) Then you use a serrated knife and you cut off the top inch of leaves. Then you pull off the outer most leaves until you get to the pale yellow leaves. Then you cut out the choke. Then you pare down the sides. What you are left with, if you did it as poorly as I did it, is a huge mess…

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…and the tiniest bit of edible artichoke. Once the other choke was trimmed, I sliced it into 1/4-inch pieces, sliced up some garlic, and cooked it all together in olive oil:

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Once the pieces were browned on one side, I turned them over:

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Once done, I added salt, pepper and shredded mint:

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Tasters said: “Hmmm, tastes pretty good.” But their ambivalence proved hurtful to me after all the work that went into buying, carving and cooking these chokes. Is it really worth it? Methinks I won’t be rushing out to do it again and that I will appreciate dishes that involve fresh artichokes at restaurants where I sup in the future. But next time Mario cuts a choke on his show I can say: “Ok, Mario, I know how to cut an artichoke” and I won’t be lying.

[For a much better artichoke trimming post, read Sam’s on Becks and Posh. Hers has a happier ending.]

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