"She swallowed and looked down at the artichoke petals piled neatly on the side of her plate. Her center certainly felt like it was melting, growing soft and wet just from the rasp of Mr. O'Connor's voice. Why should a man already devilishly handsome also have a voice that could charm birds from the sky? It simply wasn't fair."
It wasn’t until my twenties that I discovered the marvelous world of artichokes outside of a dip saturated with spinach, mayonnaise, and cheese. (Disclaimer: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a dip saturated with spinach, mayonnaise, and cheese). Yet, does it not make anybody else a tad frustrated knowing many a shopper will only see artichokes as those beige squeaky things that come out of a pop top can, a cohort I was all too recently a part of?
It’s not that fresh artichokes aren’t good, tender, and delicious... it’s just I don’t want to have to put in an excessive amount of work to enjoy a vegetable. Ask the twelve year old in me why our generation’s youth doesn’t eat more vegetables outside of ranch dipped baby carrots in ready to go snack packs, and I’ll throw you an artichoke, it’s soft core protected by a fortress of woody petals and fuzzy hair threatening to asphyxiate it’s next diner. It’s a living booby trap you have to dismantle, alongside our natural enemy the durian.
But just like the great cupcake craze of the late 2000’s, some things do taste better when shrunken down - baby artichokes have no haptodysphoria triggering fuzzy choke to deal with, the peeling is kept to a somewhat minimum, and best of all they don’t need a 45 minute roast in the oven.
Give me a snack pack of baby artichokes and lemon aioli, and I’ll give you in return a generation of adventurous kids ready to take on the vegetable aisle.
PAN ROASTED BABY ARTICHOKES + LEMON AIOLI
for the artichokes
2-3 pounds of Baby artichokes
1 lemon, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
3-4 sprigs of thyme
3/4 cup of chicken stock
for the aioli
1 egg yolk 1 garlic clove, grated
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard
1 cup of olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Salt to taste
Mise en place: aioli
Whisk together the egg yolk, garlic clove, lemon zest, and whole grain mustard in a medium bowl. While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a thick emulsion forms. Continue adding the remainder of the oil in small increments. Whisk in the lemon juice and season with salt.
mise en place: artichokes
Clean your artichokes - Peel off the outer leaves of each artichoke until you reach the tender core. Cut off the top third of the artichoke, and then using a paring knife trim and clean the stem. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Place each artichoke in a bowl filled with just enough water to cover them that’s been seasoned with the juice and rind of a halved lemon.
In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil, butter, the lemon rind from earlier, pepper flakes, garlic, and thyme over medium high heat until the butter starts foaming and is about to turn an amber shade of brown. Drain the artichokes and toss them liberally with kosher salt. Arrange them in the pan cut side down, and let them brown for 4-5 minutes (Be careful - they’ve been sitting in water and will splatter). Add the chicken stock and cover, reduce the heat to medium, and let braise for an additional 5-6 minutes, or until tender. Take the lid off, and let any excess liquid evaporate before allowing the artichokes crisp up again in any residual fat. Serve with the lemon aioli.