Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers: Lesson Ten Artichokes

By Chef Ivan Flowers,

Last week we learned how to make all kinds of salsas. This week is all about artichokes. I will teach you how to cook them (two ways!) and will give you two sauce recipes that will enhance the flavor of this wonderful vegetable.

I have found that many home cooks are intimidated by the artichoke. I don’t blame you. When I first became serious about my cooking career I took a job in a very fancy French kitchen. The first task they gave me was to tournee a HUGE box of artichokes; which means I had to basically take a large artichoke and with just a knife, turn it into a pretty, edible heart. I failed miserably! Since then, I have learned a few tricks (which I will share with you) and have come to really love artichokes. They are healthy, full of fiber and when cooked correctly, incredibly delicious.

Today I will teach you techniques that use the globe artichoke. It is in the thistle family and contains a fibrous center that must be removed before eating. This type can be found in almost any grocery store. When choosing an artichoke, look for one with a firm stem with tightly packed leaves that are uniform in color.

Let’s get cooking. First, we will cover steaming. You will want one artichoke per person. Prepare the artichoke for cooking by trimming the tough end of the stem and I like to use kitchen shears to clip the pointed ends off the outside leaves. If you choose to do this, immediately rub those leaves with lemon so they don’t oxidize. You will need a large saucepan, at least a two quart size for one to two artichokes and a four quart size for three to four.

Fill the sauce pan with water and add the juice of one lemon and then drop the lemon itself in the water. Why? Because like avocados and apples, an artichoke is prone to oxidation. The lemon will allow the vegetable to keep its color and add a nice bright flavor.

Also, add to the pot four whole, peeled garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt. We do this to impart some flavor into the artichoke as it cooks. Once the water is boiling, add your prepared artichokes into the water and cover. Reduce heat so that the water remains boiling without boiling over and all over the stove.

You will need to cook the artichokes about 45 minutes. During cooking, rotate the artichokes in the pot so they cook evenly. When a fork slips easily out of the stem, they are done.

Immediately drain in a colander and allow them to cool. Once cooled, cut in half and look for the fibrous core of the artichoke. It will look like a bunch of hair. You must remove all of this before serving. This is the choke in the artichoke. It really can choke a person! I like to use a large spoon & simply pass it under and around the back of the choke. Other than this part, the entire artichoke is edible. The leaves, you pluck off, dip into a sauce and use your teeth to remove the tender flesh and then put aside the leaf. Once all the leaves have been eaten, you will be left with the wonderful heart and stem!

While they are cooling, you can make a fabulous garlic-lime aioli to serve with them. Remember, aioli is simply a fancy term for mayonnaise. For this aioli you will need: three egg yolks, two cups canola oil, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, one teaspoon minced garlic, juice of two limes, zest of one lime and salt/pepper to taste. Remember how we learned about emulsification when we made the buerre blanc? The same principal is at work in this aioli. The lecithin in the egg yolks will emulsify the oil and other ingredients into a creamy delicious aioli. In your blender add the egg yolks, mustard, lime juice, lime zest and garlic. With the blender on medium, slowly drizzle in the entire two cups of canola oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, let’s roast some artichokes.

You must steam the artichoke before roasting. Use same technique as above, but once they are cooled and have their choke removed, we will roast them. Roasting the artichoke transforms it. It becomes sweeter and has a great depth of flavor. Put your halved, cooked artichokes on a sprayed baking sheet, choke side down. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I like to salt and pepper the artichokes at this point.

Now, I have a wonderful sauce that I use when I roast them. The following amounts are for two artichokes, if you are making more, please double the recipe. For the sauce you will need: ½ cup balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons whole grain mustard, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, juice of 1 lemon, ¼ cup salsa, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, one teaspoon granulated garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and fresh black pepper. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl.

Spoon this sauce first on the leaf side of the artichokes, then flip them over and spoon on the choke side. The divet left from the removed choke makes a nice spot for some extra sauce to collect. Use about one half of the sauce and reserve the rest. Flip artichokes back over with leaf side up and roast in oven ten minutes. Remove and add more sauce to leaf side, then flip and use remaining sauce on choke side.

Put back in the oven, choke side up for another ten minutes. After twenty minutes, the sauce will be caramelized and the artichoke will have a sweet, nutty flavor. Eat as is, it is so flavorful; you don’t need a dipping sauce!

I hope that I have taken the intimidation out of the artichoke and that you are now excited to cook some. Have fun and experiment a little. As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.

Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.

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