Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The return of Captain Artichoke

When he was about 12, my son Robert took to brushing his hair straight up like a character from Dragon Ball Z, and a good friend of our family dubbed him "Captain Artichoke!"

Fortunately the hairstyle faded quickly, unfortunately the name lingers on, much like our Thanksgiving traditions.

At our house, we love to serve Artichokes every Thanksgiving, and often on Christmas and at Easter as well, just as my Nana and Aunt Agnes did. Now if you didn't grow up eating them, they can be a little frightening to prepare, but it is really quite simple:

Cut off the stem so that the bottom of the artichoke is flat, and can sit upright.

Peel the tough outer layer of the stem and chop to about the size of a garlic clove.

Peel about 3 cloves of garlic per artichoke, and quarter.

Artichokes have little thorns on the end of the leaves, so I usually take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorned tips of all of outer leaves. This step is optional because the thorns soften with cooking but I like to do it before spreading the leaves open for stuffing.

Spread the leaves open, stuff in the stem pieces and garlic cloves.

Drizzle with oil.

Place the choke in a pot and add watter till it comes half-way up the artichokes.

Add the juice of a lemon and a few fresh basil leaves to the water.

Cover the pot and boil till the outer leaves come away from the artichoke, and you can pluck a leaf easily, and the flesh is tender.

Serve immediately.

Some people like to dip the leaves in melted butter, personally I like them plain, you just peal the leaves one at a time from the outside, scraping each leaf between your teeth to strip away the succulent flesh. until you work your way down to the choke, where the hair like thistle-down will need to be scraped away from the artichoke heart. The heart itself, is pure heaven, being the tenderest most flavorful part of the artichoke.

It's delicious, and it's Italian, my whole family agrees, especially Captain Artichoke.

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