An artichoke is the bud of a thistle plant with seemingly inedible thorny "leaves" (properly called bracts) protecting a mass of tough (and often sharp) florets. Artichokes (more properly known as Globe artichokes or French artichokes) have no relation to Jerusalem artichokes or Chinese artichokes (both of which are tubers consumed as root vegetables).
Cutting open the artichoke reveals its anatomy - which has already been color coded for us. The green areas are tough and inedible (the bracts that form the outer layers of the artichoke). Yellow areas are mostly edible. These include the meaty base of each bract (where it connects to the base or receptacle at the top of the stem), inner soft bracts, the receptacle (referred to as the heart), and the interior of the stem. Purple and white (the area directly under the purple) means "Don't Eat Me" - these are what would have become the purple thistle if the artichoke was allowed to fully mature.
Let's take a closer look at the center of the artichoke. The fleshy recepticle at the top of the stem where all the bracts and the florets (the choke) attach to is called the heart. The choke is inedible, so needs to be removed either before cooking or while eating.
I start preparing grilled artichokes the same way as I prepare them for steaming. I typically start by getting an inch of water boiling in a pot with a steamer insert as I prepare the artichokes.
Prep the artichokes by using a pair of kitchen shears to cut off the thorny tips of each of the bracts. Cut about 1/4 of the bract off during this operation. This is done as a courtesy to the diner's fingers (and it makes the artichoke look nice).
Once the bracts have been trimmed, use a large, sharp knife to cut off the tip of the artichoke. Cut off either the whole stem or just the tip (where it's brownish black). The stem is edible, but unless the artichoke is very large, the flesh is quite bitter. If you plan on eating the stem, just cut a little bit off the stem. If not, then you can chop the whole stem off.
Artichokes can be steamed until they are completely cooked (anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes depending on size). Sticking a fork into the stem (through the cut side) and meeting no resistance at all usually indicates the artichoke is done cooking. Remove the artichoke and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
However, for grilled artichokes, just steam the artichokes for 15 minutes and remove. (While steaming the artichokes, preheat the grill.) The artichoke will be softened but not fully cooked. Cut the artichoke in half along its axis of symmetry.
The artichoke will still have its choke.
Using a melon baller, measuring spoon, or tableware spoon, scoop out the choke and discard. Be careful, the choke can make quite a mess if allowed to - just scoop and toss. If you miss a bit of the florets, use the spoon to scrape against the heart and the florets should come off onto the spoon.
Cut open and remove the chokes from each artichoke and then brush the cut side of the artichokes with olive oil, being sure to coat the heart. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the cut side and transfer to a hot grill.
Grill over medium heat with the cut side up for 10 minutes and then flip the artichokes over and grill for another 5 minutes. Serve with Dijon mustard mayonnaise or sauce of your choice.}?>
Grilled Artichokes (one large artichoke per serving)
|Boil 1 in. (2.5 cm) water in pot with steamer attachment / Preheat grill|
|1 large artichoke||trim||steam 15 min.||cut from tip to base||brush||season||grill 10 min. medium heat with cut side up||grill 5 min. cut side down|
|1 tsp. (5 mL) olive oil|
|salt and pepper|
Dijon mustard mayonnaise dipping sauce
|2 Tbs. (30 g) mayonnaise||mix|
|1 tsp. (5 g) Dijon mustard|
|1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce|
It's not uncommon to entertain guests who have not eaten artichokes before. So, I've decided to include a brief pictorial of how to eat a whole steamed artichoke. (Eating a grilled artichoke would be the same, except the diner doesn't have to deal with the choke.)
Starting form the outside and working your way in, snap off each bract from the base of the artichoke. The bract will have a fleshy, yellow part (where it was attached to the artichoke) - this is the part you eat. Dip it in a sauce (or not) and scrape the yellow portion off the fibrous bract with your teeth. Place the spent bract in a discard pile and draw another bract from the artichoke.
Once all the green bracts have been consumed, you will be left with a bunch of light yellow parts that have not yet become fibrous bracts. These are mostly edible, but may or may not be worth your time. Proceed eating them as you desire - or simply remove them as you would pluck petals from a flower. Eventually you will reach the purple color that signifies "Stop Eating".
Just grab the purple "petals" and as much of the remaining "petals" underneath and twist and pull them off. This will leave only the florets of the choke.
Use a spoon to scrape the florets off the base or heart of the artichoke.
With the heart cleaned, the rest of the artichoke can be consumed in its entirety. The stem can be bitter (especially the flesh near the exterior), so some diners may wish to avoid it.
As a special note, smaller artichokes can be consumed whole, choke and all, if the other bracts are removed. When pickled, the smallest of artichokes are sold as pickled artichoke hearts (they include not just the hearts but the soft tender bracts as well).