Mastering arichokes worth the extra effort

Y ou can cook pretty much anything on a grill — with the possible exception of soup — but have you ever tried to grill an artichoke?

Maybe you haven’t even tried to cook an artichoke. Bryan Forgione, executive chef of Buddy V’s Ristorante at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, understands that preparing them may be a little intimidating for some people.

“You’ve got to put work into it,” he said. “It’s not like you just take it home and cook it. There’s cleaning them properly, knowing how to cook them, knowing when they’re done.”

The alternative?

“There are so many cans and jars of artichokes, which is easier for people,” he said.

But not as good as the real thing, as Forgione will be quick to tell you. He has memories of going to his aunt’s house as a child and eating stuffed artichokes, pulling out the leaves and scraping them off on his teeth.

Today, though, he prefers to grill them. Forgione starts the artichokes in boiling water with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil.

“What your liquid is going to taste like is what your artichoke’s going to be.” He poaches them until he can easily poke the tip of a knife into the stem, then quarters them, pulls out the center choke and marinates them in the poaching liquid.

“I like to do them on the grill, and they get that nice little char flavor on them,” he said. “Serve them with a nice flavored butter or with a nice spicy aioli.”

Chris Keating, executive chef of T-bones Chophouse at Red Rock Resort, also prefers artichokes grilled, and that’s how he prepares them at the restaurant. He parboils them in court bouillon with garlic, onions, shallots, peppercorns, herbs and lemon, until they’re cooked about halfway. Then he cuts them in half and cleans out the choke. And then it’s time for the fire.

He takes the process a step further afterward, filling the cavities with a light panzanella salad made with fresh spinach, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.

“I prefer to eat them with that nice little charred flavor on them, and you can pull the petals out,” Keating said. “When they’re at the heart of the season, they’re nice and meaty and fresh and delicious.”

And that would be now, since spring is artichoke season. According to the California Artichoke Advisory Board, from the home state of virtually all U.S. commercial artichoke production, peak season is March through May, though some occurs throughout the year.

Are you unsure of how to prepare an artichoke? Here are some tips from the advisory board:

Wash them under cold running water and pull off lower petals that are small or discolored. Cut stems close to the base. Cut off the top quarter and tips of petals, if desired. Plunge into acidified water to preserve color, using 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice per quart of water.

Plunge the artichokes into boiling water and simmer 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. If you’d rather steam them, place them on a rack above 1½ inches of boiling water, cover and cook 25 to 40 minutes.

That’s it. Forgione and Keating both said they like to snip off the thorny tips, although the advisory board said that isn’t necessary because they soften during cooking.

To eat, pull off each leaf, dip into butter or aioli, if desired, and scrape off the meat with your teeth. When you get to the center, cut out the thorny choke and cut up and eat the base, or heart.

Don’t, as some people do, discard the leaves and just eat the heart.

“I just think that’s part of the experience,” Forgione said of the leaves. “I don’t look at that as something you want to get rid of. It’s just as important as the heart. There’s so much meat on those leaves that people don’t realize.”

You also might see baby artichokes in the stores. They’re entirely edible, and prepared slightly differently. Here’s more advice from the artichoke advisory board:

To prepare fresh baby artichokes, bend back the outer petals and snap them off, continuing until you get to leaves that are half green (at the top) and half yellow. Cut the top cone of the leaves at the point where the yellow meets the green, which is more fibrous. Cut the stem level with the base and trim any remaining green from the base. Plunge into water acidified with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per quart of water. Steam whole; for stir-fry or saute, cut in half or quarter horizontally.

GRILLED ARTICHOKES

4 large artichokes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup water

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon minced ginger

¼ cup olive oil

Slice artichoke tops off, crosswise. Trim stems.

Boil or steam artichokes until bottoms pierce easily or a petal pulls off easily. Drain and cool.

Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and scrape out fuzzy center and any purple-tipped petals.

Mix remaining ingredients in a large plastic bag. Place artichokes in the bag and coat all sides of the artichokes. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator for best flavor, but at least one hour.

Drain artichokes. Place cut side down on a grill over a solid bed of medium coals or gas grill on medium. Grill until lightly browned on the cut side, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn and drizzle some of the remaining marinade over the artichokes. Grill until petal tips are lightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Serve hot or at room temperature

Serves 8.

— Recipe from California Artichoke Advisory Board

ARTICHOKE BENEDICT

For hollandaise sauce:

3 egg yolks

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup firm cold butter, cut into eighths

1/8 teaspoon paprika

Dash ground red pepper

Salt, to taste

For eggs:

4 medium artichokes

4 slices (¼-inch thick) Canadian bacon

4 eggs

To make sauce: In small saucepan, heat together egg yolks, water and lemon juice. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles at edges.

Stir in butter, 1 piece at a time, until melted and sauce is thickened. Stir in paprika, red pepper and salt, to taste.

Remove from heat. Serve warm.

To make eggs, prepare and cook artichokes.

Brown Canadian bacon slices in skillet.

Poach eggs in boiling, salted water.

Spread leaves of artichoke open like flower petals. Remove center petals and fuzzy centers from artichokes and discard.

Place bacon slices into artichoke centers, covering bottom, and top with poached eggs.

Spoon on hollandaise sauce and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from the California Artichoke Advisory Board

BABY ARTICHOKE CHICKEN SAUTE

16 baby artichokes

4 half chicken breasts, skinned, boned and cut into chunks

¼ cup olive oil (divided use)

2 red or yellow onions, sliced thick

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil and rosemary, or 1 teaspoon each dried basil and rosemary, crushed

½ cup chicken broth

1 pound fettuccine, cooked and drained

Prepare artichokes; cut into halves.

Brown chicken in large skillet with 2 tablespoons oil; remove from pan and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and saute onions until tender.

Add artichokes to skillet with garlic, basil and rosemary. Cook until artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in browned chicken and drizzle with chicken broth; heat through.

Add salt and pepper, to taste, if desired.

Serve over hot fettuccine.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from California Artichoke Advisory Board

ARTICHOKES WITH ROASTED GARLIC DIP

2 whole garlic heads

4 medium artichokes (about 3½ pounds)

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)

1 tablespoon butter

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.

Cut off stems of artichokes, and remove bottom leaves. Trim about ½ inch from tops of artichokes. Place artichokes, stem ends down, in a large Dutch oven filled two-thirds with water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Remove artichokes from pan.

Combine half of garlic pulp and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced to ½ cup (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and salt. Pour mixture into a blender; add remaining half of garlic pulp. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Sprinkle dip with parsley, if desired. Serve dip with warm artichokes.

Serves 4.

STEAMED GLOBE ARTICHOKES WITH PECORINO VINAIGRETTE AND FRIED GARLIC CHIPS

3 lemons, 2 halved and 1 zested and juiced (3 tablespoons juice)

6 large globe artichokes

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 stick unsalted butter

¾ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Freshly ground pepper

Fill a medium bowl with water. Juice one of the halved lemons into the water, and add the rind.

Trim artichoke stems to ½ inch and remove tough outer leaves. Trim pointy tips of artichoke leaves using kitchen shears. Spread leaves apart to remove inner chokes by scraping with a small spoon. Transfer artichokes to lemon water as you work, to prevent discoloration.

Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water. Juice 1 halved lemon into water; bring to a simmer. Fit pot with a steamer-basket insert. Place artichokes upright in steamer. Simmer, covered, until artichokes are very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 30 minutes.

Combine olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until garlic is pale gold. Strain garlic; reserve oil. Transfer garlic chips to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Add butter to saucepan, and melt over medium-low heat. Whisk in reserved oil, the cheese and lemon zest and juice.

Pour a pool of vinaigrette into center of each artichoke, and drizzle remainder over tops. Sprinkle with garlic chips and season with pepper.

Serves 6.

— Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

STUFFED ARTICHOKES

1 lemon, halved

6 whole artichokes

¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs

½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze the lemon halves into a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Trim the bottom off each artichoke. Trim off the tough outer leaves. Snip the thorny tips off the top leaves. As each one is completed, place it in the lemon water to prevent it from discoloring.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and parsley and season with pepper. Pull each leaf open slightly from each artichoke and stuff a little filling into the opening. Place the artichokes snugly side by side in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 inch of water to the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and steam until the bottoms of the artichokes are tender, 35 to 45 minutes; a knife should insert easily. Add more water if necessary. Make sure the water doesn’t boil dry.

Serve each artichoke hot, on an individual plate.

Serves 6.

— Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com. and bestoflasvegas.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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