One of my favorite vendors at the Portland Farmers’ Market is Denoble Farms, which has incredible artichokes that start their run in the late spring or early summer. When I shop there, I hear the matriarch of the family, Patreece, describe again and again how to handle and cook baby artichokes because they’re a little mysterious. They’re very different from the big artichokes that you cook and peel leaves from one by one. With baby artichokes, you can eat almost the whole thing.
If you get baby artichokes when they’re small enough, they might not yet have developed a choke. A little bit later in the season, they’ll probably have some small, fine hairs forming on the inside that you’ll need to clean out using the method below. Baby artichokes are, in a word, delightful, boasting both a grassy quality and a gentle sweetness.
These crispy artichokes are beautiful to eat on their own, but I especially like to pair them with rich and toasty Hazelnut Romesco and, for a full meal, Fennel-Brined Pork Loin, which has its own natural sweetness. If you’re planning on serving these artichokes as a main course, make a few more than called for here.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 8 quarts cold water
- 2 lemons
- 24 to 30 baby artichokes, each about 2 inches in diameter
- 1 cup white wine
- ¾ cup salt
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic
- Peel of 2 lemons
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Hazelnut Romesco, optional
- Herb salad, for garnish (optional)
- To prep the artichokes, pour 4 quarts of the water into a large bowl. Halve the lemons, squeeze their juice into the water, and then add the spent lemons to the bowl. Swirl to combine.
- Working with 1 artichoke at a time, remove the tough outer leaves until only the pale interior leaves are visible. Peel off one more layer of outer leaves than you think is necessary; this will ensure that only the most tender inner leaves are left, so the whole artichoke is edible (and not stringy). Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the end of the stem, then trim the stem and base (the area to which the leaves are attached), paring off the outer layers until no green fibers are visible. Immediately submerge the pared artichoke in the lemon water to prevent oxidation. Working carefully but quickly is imperative. Repeat with the remaining artichokes. When all of the stems and bases have been trimmed, working one at a time, pull the artichokes out of the lemon water and cut off about ¾ inch from the apex of the leaves, leaving only an inch or so of the leaves’ pale base. Return each artichoke to the lemon water immediately after trimming.
- Once all of the apexes have been trimmed, pull an artichoke out of the water and cut it in half lengthwise. If there is a choke (the fuzzy part that becomes the thistle), with the tip of the knife, carefully cut it out of each half, being careful not to remove any leaves. Using your fingers, remove all bits of choke and any interior leaves with sharp spikes (some baby artichokes will not have spiky leaves). Place the trimmed artichoke halves back in the lemon water and repeat with the remaining artichokes.
- Line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel. To parcook the artichokes, pour the remaining 4 quarts water into an 8-quart pot, place over high heat, add the wine, salt, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and lemon peel, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Place 1 artichoke half into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the artichoke to the prepared baking sheet, then taste it for doneness and seasoning. The artichoke should be tender but not soft because you’ll be cooking it further before serving. If 3 minutes was the right amount of time (this can vary according to the size of the artichokes), divide the artichokes into four batches and repeat the cooking process until all of the artichokes are cooked and drained. This can be done up to 4 hours in advance.
- To finish the artichokes, divide the artichokes into four batches again. Heat a black steel pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking and place a batch of artichokes in a single layer, cut sides down, in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the artichokes or they won’t brown properly. Weight the artichokes down with a heatproof plate that fits inside the pan.
- Check the artichokes frequently, using tongs and a kitchen towel to remove the plate. When the cut sides of the artichokes are golden brown, after 4 to 5 minutes, transfer them to a plate and repeat with the remaining batches and oil. Place all of the artichokes in the black steel pan and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute just until heated through. Serve the artichokes with a dollop of the romesco and garnished with the herb salad.