Braised artichokes in white wine and lemon
Artichokes might be, strangely, the most nostalgic food of my childhood. They're something we didn't have all the time, so they felt like a treat, and one behind which my dad was always the master mind. I still remember him sort of teaching us how to eat them for the first time. In case you don't know, the simplest way to prepare them is by steaming them whole, but you don't then eat them whole. You sort of "scrape the meat off" of each leaf with your teeth, after you've dipped it in salted, melted butter. And then the really soft inner leaves can be eaten whole, along with the very, very best part: the heart, which we'd let sit in the cup of butter and eat it straight from there, drenched and dripping (be still my heart). It's a really unique vegetable in nearly every way, right down to its slightly irony, briny flavor, and the meaty texture of the heart. I love artichokes.
And while we're on the topic, another quick story for you. When we were quite young, we started going to church (it was an experiment that didn't last too long). And towards the beginning of each church service, there was a "Children's Hour" where all the really young kids would gather at the front before the rest of the congregation, and they'd talk about some topic that was kid-friendly but probably had a larger, deeper significance to everyone else. In one of these Hours, all the little kids were asked their favorite food. They went around the room, listing off the typical cast of characters: cake, cupcakes, ice cream, chocolate. Until it got to my younger brother Hunter, whose food pyramid basically consisted of Pull 'n Peel Twizzlers, Lunchables, bubble gum, and cheese burritos from age two on, and he said "artichokes." #Artichokefam for life.
In adulthood, I've learned to be a little more experimental with artichokes, although I still have a soft spot for the OG way of preparing and eating them. In this recipe, they're braised with wine and lemon, and the results are so freaking tasty (as well as obviously divine smelling as they cook). They require a bit of prep work (or not; see my notes at the start of the recipe), but I'd do just about anything for one of my favorite foods on earth.
Braised artichokes in white wine and lemon
Yields 4-6 servings
4 large artichokes
3 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz dry white wine
1½ cups chicken stock
One whole lemon
½ T salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch or two crushed red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh parsley
*Note: People prepare artichokes different ways. Basically, the outer leaves aren’t edible in their entirety, but the bottom part of those leaves contain “meat” that is full of flavor and great scraped off with your teeth. I like to get rid of most of the outer leaves, but like to leave some for eating this way. Then, the inner leaves, heart, and stem can be eaten in entirety, especially the heart and stem. Alternatively, you can discard more of the outer leaves to begin with so that all you’re left with is soft inner leaves, heart, and stem after cooking. It’s up to you!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by preparing the artichokes: remove the stiff/tough outer leaves (maybe ⅓ of the artichoke, I’d say, if you want to follow my preparation, as discussed above) and discard. Then chop 1 inch or so off the top of each choke and discard. Shave the thick green parts from the stem and around the base of the artichoke. Then, slice each artichoke in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to remove the little section of thistle by the base of the choke (it’s what covers the heart and is not pleasant to eat). Set artichokes aside (squeeze cut-side immediately with lemon to keep them from browning, if you’d like, but it’s not necessary). In a large oven-safe pot like a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Place artichokes, cut-side up, in pot. Add wine to deglaze, followed by chicken stock and the juice from a whole lemon (and then nestle the lemon halves right along with the artichokes). Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cover with lid, and place in oven for 45 minutes. Serve in dishes with extra broth ladled over them for dipping bread into, and sprinkled with a bunch of chopped parsley.