To Cut An Artichoke

September 12, 2006 | By | COMMENTS

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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.]

Categories: Cooking, How-To

  • http://BowdoinGourmet.com Mark

    I’ve never found dealing with fresh artichokes at home to be worth the hassle. However, store-bought artichoke hearts preserved in water can actually be very good. For example, try them chopped up in a sandiwch with tuna, capers, olive oil, onions, and lemon juice.

  • http://www.petecarpenter.com Pete

    Prepping fresh artichokes is a huge pain in the ass, but completely worth it. Try braising them in the oven with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh thyme until just tender, and toss them with hot pasta. You may change your mind!

  • Colleen

    but what about the yummy meat on the leaves? all that good artichoke gone to waste…so sad

  • http://www.dahlshouse.com Dahlia

    i’m with colleen – i’ve always steamed my artichoke and then eaten the leaves dipped in some melted butter, maybe with a bit of garlic powder thrown in. As you get closer to the center, the larger the percentage of leaf that is edible. Then you scrape off the fuzz and eat the delicious heart last. Mmm.

  • http://secretingredients.blogspot.com Kate

    I’m with Mark. I make a mean shrimp and artichoke vinagrette with storebought artichoke hearts. I do get a big kick out of dipping artichoke leaves in butter. At least for me, there’s something fun and exciting about that!

  • http://secretingredients.blogspot.com Kate

    I’m with Mark. I make a mean shrimp and artichoke vinagrette with storebought artichoke hearts. I do get a big kick out of dipping artichoke leaves in butter. At least for me, there’s something fun and exciting about that!

  • http://www.avenuefood.com Sarah

    Yes, the bits of meat on the leaves are the best! Just snip the spikey thing off the top edge of each leaf after trimming the top and stem of the artichoke. I like to dip the leaves in garlicky, lemony mayonaise.

    –Sarah

  • Suzanne

    It’s criminal to waste the leaves! Follow your directions through “cut off the top inch of leaves”. Rinse well and put in a bowl large enough to hold the choke. Add water till it just covers the base, then add a bay leaf, several whole peppercorns and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap and steam on high in the micro for approx. 8 minutes. Leave covered on the counter to let steam till you are ready with the rest of your meal. When done, the leaves should pull easily from the base. Dip the leaves into a sauce of fresh chopped garlic, lemon and melted butter seasoned with pepper. You should then cut the tiny leaves and thistle out by running a sharp knife around it. My 13 year old son and I fight over the heart…the best part!

  • http://www.jjdayfamily.com/cindy/blog/ Cindy

    Delurking to say that I am firmly in the steaming/boiling camp — just don’t dismantle the thing! (As you suggest, let sous chefs in fancy restaurants do that and don’t think about it). I ate artichokes — simply boiled and with melted butter — all through my childhood and every time I got to the heart after all of those leaves I was thrilled — it’s such a decadent, hard-won prize and I love the flavor. It pains me to think of all of the people who might be missing out on this experience because they watch Mario Batali’s insistent instructions.

  • toby

    i like them either steamed whole or stuffed with a sausage kinda breadcrumb stuffing. and i gnaw on the leaves with ranch dressing.

  • Christine

    I only cut the pointy sticker thingies (um, also known as thorns)off, steam them and then eat them with fresh lemon juice, salt and aioli

  • http://www.eatwisconsin.net Jeff

    I echo the comments by the posters that are telling you to eat the leaves. What I do is cut the choke in half from top to bottom. Steam them for about 8 minutes or until a knife slides easily into the stem. Then brush with some olive oil, salt and pepper to taste then grill them (or broil) them until they get some light charring.

    Dip in a mixture of butter and habanero sauce, a homemade vinagerette, or just straight up butter and it is one of the best snacks available.

  • http://www.monicaricci.typepad.com Monica Ricci

    Artichokes get filed under the “more trouble than they’re worth” category in my life. If someone else prepares it for me, great. If not, no dice.

  • Coco

    My goodness! As a native Northern Californian, I consider myself blessed to live near the region that grows most artichokes eaten in the United States. While some may think of this thistle as overly fussy to prepare or as special occasion food, I grew up eating them almost every week.

    First off, artichokes are not at all hard to prepare. I urge anyone who is intimidated by cooking them to put aside their fears and follow this simple method:

    Using either a very sharp chef’s knife (I use cheap (think $7) but super-sharp knives from a Japanese grocery store) or a good serrated bread knife, lop off the artichoke’s stem (leave about 1/2 inch at the base of the artichoke), and then slice off the first couple inches of leaves. Then, come back in with a scissors, trimming off the pointy tops of each leaf.

    Note: You can skip the scissors, but I find this prevents people from getting a nasty sticking while eating! It also makes for a prettier presentation, and only takes a couple extra minutes.

    Now that your artichokes are trimmed, steam them for about 25 minutes, or until you can pull out a leaf with just a little bit of resistance. Some people also check for doneness by sticking a knife into the base of the heart. If you do this, the resistance should be about the same as you’d want in a steamed new potato.

    Serve the artichokes whole, furry choke and all! They’re MUCH easier to deconstruct and de-choke when they are cooked. Dip each leaf into mayonnaise, a mustard sauce, vinaigrette, melted butter . . . whichever dip sounds good to you.

    Once you get down to the tender inner tent of leaves, you can remove them all at once with a tug at the top. Simple dip the whole bunch, and munch almost halfway up the leaves.

    Now you’ve reached the very inner prickly leaves and the furry choke. Simply use a spoon to scoop/scrape off the fur, cut the heart into bite-sized wedges, and consume! Bon apetit.

  • http://clothesaholic.blogspot.com/ gidget bananas

    I’ll second the recommendation of kitchen shears for artichoke trimming. For easy steaming, put water in the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl, put the trimmed artichokes top-down in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for about 15 minutes (the actual time will vary depending on the power of your microwave).

  • http://www.elise.com Elise

    Hi Adam,

    I don’t follow Mario’s method of trimming an artichoke because I think it is just too wasteful. Stripping the leaves is 80 percent of the fun. I use the same method as Coco, and wrote up a post about it a while ago:

    How to cook and eat an artichoke.

    If you want sautéed artichokes, I recommend buying the baby artichokes, stripping off the leaves until there is no more green, quartering and sautéing. With the babies, there is less waste because there are many fewer leaves to begin with.

  • http://www.oceanmist.com Ocean Mist Artichokes

    Ocean Mist is the largest grower of fresh Artichokes in the United States and grows them year-round in three ideal California locations: Castroville, Oxnard and Coachella.

  • MaryBeth

    Get a clue, artichokes are delicious! I have been eating them since I was little and have turned many people on to them! No hassle just boil for 15 or steam and EAT! YUM, what is the big deal? I was trying to find info on how to cut the heart is why I looked at this website.

  • Brittany

    Has anyone made a broth with the water used to boil the artichokes? I am just curious because maybe those who do like to tear off all the leaves and totally dismember the thing can boil the leaves separately, then drain and use the artichoke-y broth?

  • Bobbye

    Something must be wrong here, everytime my man peels the leaves off a artichoke we have nothing but a bunch of leaves and bloody fingers. Never has he found a heart in there. He says a jar of artichoke hearts should be worth a thousand dollars! Haha. I don’t like them so I don’t care, just provide the band-aides and assure him that the only heart he needs is mine! Enjoy your artichokes! :)

  • Bobbye

    Something must be wrong here, everytime my man peels the leaves off a artichoke we have nothing but a bunch of leaves and bloody fingers. Never has he found a heart in there. He says a jar of artichoke hearts should be worth a thousand dollars! Haha. I don’t like them so I don’t care, just provide the band-aides and assure him that the only heart he needs is mine! Enjoy your artichokes! :)

  • John

    your pictures don’t help much and your directions are very general. this doesn’t show people how to cut an artichoke. you’re as bad as Mario Batali telling people it’s easy to cut w/o any good directions.