Yes, wine lovers — I am going here. For some, the artichoke only comes in a jar and they are called hearts, for others it is a cheesy lemony dip with spinach, and for me it's a steamed and fresh classic served with hollandaise. So let's not be afraid of these big beautiful vegetables sitting in the markets in their raw form — just grab one or two and follow these easy steps to create a quite elegant starter, side dish or main meal.
First you want to select an artichoke that is bright green with minimal brown specks on the tips of the leaves for optimal freshness. Lay the artichoke on its side and cut a quarter of the top off. Then cut the stalk right at the base — only enough so the artichoke can stand up on its own.
Trim the sharp pointy leaves with scissors, as this will not only help handling them when done, but also gives it an eye-appealing quality. Place the artichokes in a bowl and cover with water, immersing them for 20-30 minutes.
You then want to steam the artichoke for 35-40 minutes (this is for 2 medium to large artichokes). I use a handy home steamer that I have had for years, but you can use a bamboo or tray steamer. While the artichokes begin to steam, you'll want to make your hollandaise. If you have ever been afraid of making your own hollandaise I am going to show you a quick and easy way to do it without the use of a double broiler! This recipe comes from Katie Brown's Weekends and is one of my go-to favorites.
Melt two sticks of unsalted butter on the stovetop until bubbling hot. While the butter is melting mix 3 egg yolks, 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of both salt and pepper in a blender and pulse to combine.
While the blender is running on low speed, slowly pour the butter in a stream into the mixture to combine. This should create a a whipped texture. Taste and adjust adding lemon, salt, or pepper as needed. To plate the hollandaise and artichoke, I pour a quarter cup directly on a plate and place the artichoke right on top of the sauce.
To enjoy, tear leaves individually and bite gently, scraping the leaves across your teeth to take the pulp off. The closer you get to the center or "heart" the leaves will be more tender and you will be able to eat half of the leaf.
Once you get to the bottom of your artichoke you will get to the heart, but don't be so quick to jump in at this point. You need to get below the fuzzy choke (seen below):
This fuzzy layer over the tender heart can be scraped with a fork or pulled with your fingers, and will separate easily from the heart.
Now you are at the prized bite of this vegetable, and you may now realize the time that was involved to get to this point correlates with the price of jarred artichoke hearts. Slice the hearts and enjoy their tender sweetness.
This brings me to my opening statement, "Yes wine lovers — I am going here." Artichokes are among the most difficult foods to pair with wine. They have an enzyme that gives them a slightly sweet, lingering flavor that collides with acid. So, if artichokes are in your plan, choose your wine carefully, or consider making them a starter where the wine shines with your main meal. I'll leave you wondering — has anyone out there found a wine that pairs well with artichokes?