My first run-in with a steamed artichoke took place at a friend’s house after school. Never having met a vegetable I didn’t like, I plucked one of the outer leaves and popped it in my mouth. Bad idea. This artichoke did not give in like the floppy albino specimens in a can that I’d experienced. This artichoke was a gangsta’! This artichoke had thorns! I observed as my friend scraped the bottom of each leaf with her teeth and discarded the fibrous leaf in an empty bowl. Oh.
What to do, what to do? Can’t chew it…don’t want to spit it out…must use…the Secret Ninja Napkin Trick (I know you know what I mean). Wait for the perfect window of opportunity, and then swoop, POW, hwappah! Crisis averted.
Fast forward with me 10 years or so. I see the thorny little buggers at the grocery store, and of course, must have them (I am highly prone to produce department impulse buys). Once I get them home, we have a little conversation. It goes a little something like this:
“You have potential, my stubborn little friend. Should I boil you? Would you enjoy being boiled? Or maybe I should steam you and serve you with garlic butter. Would you like that? Ah, yes…roasting…the perfect way to coax a stubborn vegetable into submission.”
The artichoke, predictably, remains silent.
First, I steam the artichokes to soften them up a bit. Then, they get the rubdown with a paste of garlic, lemon, and salt (jealous yet?) After the massage, they lay cut-side down, get drizzled in olive oil, bathed in butter, garlic and lemon, and are roasted until they reach a state of enlightenment. Now, as if this weren’t enough, just take a look in the bottom of your roasting pan. Garlicky lemony buttery bliss. You may decide that there is not enough buttery bliss in the bottom of the pan. Add some more butter–I won’t judge you.
Put on your stretchy pants. Break open loaf of bread. Lounge on the couch and luxuriously dip the leaves in buttery bliss. You’re a creative bunch…I’ll let you figure out what to do with the bread.
Garlic & Lemon Roasted Artichokes
(serves 4 as a side dish, 6 as an appetizer)
- 2 medium or large artichokes
- 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled: 4 cloves minced, 2 cloves thinly sliced
- 2 lemons, halved crosswise (smooth-skinned lemons that are heavy for their size will yield more juice)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 sprigs thyme, (optional)
Wash the artichokes under cold water and dry with a clean towel. Cut off the top 1 1/2 inches of the artichoke. Trim the stem end, leaving about an inch or so attached. With kitchen scissors, clip the thorny tips of each leaf as well as the small leaves attached to the stem and base. Halve each artichoke lengthwise and rub with a lemon half to prevent the cut sides from turning brown as quickly.
FIll a large pot with water to the depth of 2 inches. Place steamer basket on top, cover and bring to a boil.
Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to medium and arrange the artichoke halves and one of the lemon halves in a single layer in the steamer basket .
Steam for about 12 minutes (for medium artichokes) to cook the artichokes halfway.
While the artichokes are steaming, preheat the oven to 425˚ and prepare the garlic paste (see below).
Transfer artichokes to a small roasting pan and allow to cool slightly. Scoop out the choke (the fuzzy white area at the center of the artichoke) and the smallest, spiniest leaves above it, being careful not to remove too much of the meat underneath.
Combine 1 teaspoon of salt with the minced garlic in a mortar and pestle or in a small bowl. Using pestle, or the back of a spoon in a small bowl, mash the garlic into a rough paste.
After they have cooled, thoroughly rub each artichoke half (cut side AND outside) with garlic paste, making sure to get between the leaves, and place cut-side up in the roasting pan. Spread the sliced garlic, thyme sprigs (if using), and remaining lemon halves cut-side down in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and distribute the 4 pieces of butter around the pan.
Cover tightly with foil and roast at 425˚ for 20-35 minutes, or until one of the outside leaves can be easily pulled off. Transfer artichokes to a plate and pour the lemon garlic butter from the pan into a small bowl. Taste. Add more butter, a squeeze of roasted lemon, and season with salt if needed.