Artichokes: Just Boil Them

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Ugh, artichokes. At some point, I espoused my philosophy–“Artichokes: Not Worth It”–and then slightly changed my tune when I stuffed them with breadcrumbs and cheese and baked them. That was in 2013. Now it’s 2015, and here I am in the kitchen with four artichokes that I bought at the West Hollywood Farmer’s market (sadly my CSA is taking a break) and I’m acting all cocky, like: “I can tackle these, no problem.” The goal is to trim them down so I can slice them and fry them in olive oil. I don’t know where I go wrong, but before I know it, my cutting board looks like this….

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It’s funny to be posting that image right now, because I started my day reading this diatribe about me on a forum called Mouthfuls: “If you asked me to describe Roberts in one word I’d pick ‘ignoramus’. I confess to hate-reading him and I am continually gobsmacked by his stunning lack of knowledge: of technique, of culinary history, of culture. He is shockingly incurious. And he is years into his gig– one would think something might have stuck along the way, but no, he continues in his cheerful blindness. He appears to have chutzpah in aces and that I assume has served him very well. It also irks me that he bills his blog as a ‘funny food blog’ because he is so Not Funny.”

Well good morning to you too, Daisy!

And here I am proving you right with another artichoke disaster. But this time, my folly led me to an artichoke revelation. The best thing to do with them? Slice the tops off and then plop them into boiling water with some squeezed lemon halves in there and simmer for 30 minutes or so until a knife goes through the base easily. (If the leaves are pointy, you can make them flat with a pair of kitchen shears.)

The reason this is the best thing to do with an artichoke has nothing to do with the artichoke itself and everything to do with what you do while the artichoke is simmering: take an egg yolk and put into a bowl. Get a fat garlic clove and grate it into the yolk. Squeeze some lemon juice in there and start whisking with a pinch of salt. Now slowly drizzle in olive oil as you keep whisking until you have a thick, aioli-like substance.

When your artichokes are boiled, take them out and let them cool for a few minutes and then serve them alongside your garlic aioli:

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As artichoke-lovers know, the pleasure here is all about tearing off those leaves and using them as vehicles for that garlicky aioli you made. So do just that: pull off a leaf and scoop up lots of aioli. Drag the base across your teeth and pretend you’re doing it for that delightful artichoke flavor, but really we all know why you’re really doing it. (And the nice thing is, when you’re done with all of the leaves, it’s really easy to get down to the heart now that it’s boiled–just cut out the choke and there you are.)

And so a great secret is revealed. The next time you’re struggling over an artichoke, just boil some water and spend your time whisking instead of trimming. This is an artichoke experience worth having.

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