Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I was going to grill the artichokes. Then, changed my mind. How about fried?

I was at the Vietnamese market on Sunday and found these very nice, small artichokes. Most of their produce is grown locally, and it's all very fresh - these artichokes were small, but very nice. When looking for fresh artichokes, picked at the right time, look for ones with the leaves snug like this (below). Not that the ones with the leaves spiked out aren't good, but these are what you'd pick, if you had the choice between the two.

Anyone who is familiar with artichokes knows they take a little while to cook. You can't just toss them on the grill for 10 minutes and then serve 'em up. And artichokes are one of the few vegetables that just do not taste good raw. Or even half raw. So you gotta cook them all the way through. What I like to do is trim then tough leaves off, then put them in the pressure cooker for a bit to steam, this speeds up the process quite a bit.

Another thing that speeds cooking, and makes them a little nicer to eat, is trimming off the tough outer leaves. The tender part remains -- but the yucky outside leaves are gone. A sharp knife is needed - my vintage Wusthof carver works perfect; the small, stiff carbon steel blade easily cuts through the tough leaves.

The ones last night were smaller, tender leaved artichokes, but with the larger ones I also trim off the tops (below). This way you don't get pricked with the thorns!

Now, the cooking part.

Into the pressure cooker. Once it starts steaming, I let them cook until I am able to smell them. This is a good indication they are ready to remove. It goes fast though, so pay attention or you could end up with mush. As soon as you smell the artichokes - turn off the heat and let the steam out. I love my pressure cooker. I prefer the European models, like this SEB. I like the safety top and the design of the lid.

Out of the water, they are cooked through but still a little firm so I can cut them. Starting at the bottom, I cut through quickly with a sharp knife. A thin flexible blade works best here... and another one of my favorites, my vintage Pernot carbon steel slicer. Goes through anything like it was butter.

Once cut in half, you can leave as-is, or cut again into quarters, which is what I did. In a large fry pan, coat the bottom with about 1/4" olive or vegetable oil. When hot, gently put the pieces in and cook on med/high until crisp and golden. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

I also made a quick dipping sauce:
2 parts mayo
2 parts ketchup
1 part yellow mustard
1 part water - to thin it
fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Stir until creamy.

Serve family style, as an appetizer.