I love to people watch. It’s one of my now-not-so-secret pastimes while I’m sitting in busy places. Airports, restaurants, bars, you name it, I’ve watched people in ’em. While planning the menu for a class in our Classic Cookbook Series, I came upon an exceptional reason and place to put my people-watching skills to work: the grocery store.
Julia Child was the first goddess for our series, and her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, took center stage for the evening. I wanted to provide a glimpse into Julia’s book with only four recipes. Talk about a challenge. Recipes in this book have taken me an average of 2.5 hours to successfully serve, from start to finish, with many taking much, much longer. Putting these recipes on the board for a class that would ideally take 90 minutes was surely difficult—and panic inducing. That considered, I relied on my personal favorite recipes, many hours of prep before the class, and said experiment.
Salt Lake City is afraid of artichokes. Not the frozen hearts, not the dips, not the actual vegetable itself. We are afraid of purchasing a whole artichoke and figuring out how to coax it into a presentable and edible state. I now know this from creeping around local grocery stores and watching people inspect these lovely little globes. I spent about fifteen extra minutes wandering aimlessly around the produce section of two stores, keeping a close eye on the heaping piles of artichokes. Kids were always the first to find the artichokes. They’d pick them up, poke at the leaves, then get poked back by the tips of the leaves. Yelps of pain, surprise, or anger followed. They would march to their mothers, demanding to know what the mean little green thing was. The mother would often put it back with a one word answer, and then tell them they’re not easy to make or good to eat. Younger adults would approach them, inspect them like the younger kids, get on their phones—most likely googling uses for them—and then frantically put them down and move on.
On one of my most recent adventures, I spent time picking a few perfect artichokes for friends. At least three shoppers and two sales clerks asked me what I was planning to do with them. When the word ‘braise’ left my mouth, eyes popped, mouths dropped, eyebrows raised.
Guys, they’re not that bad! These lovely thistle blooms deserve credit for being delicious, unique, and rich with history. Mediterraneans love artichokes for good reason. They are plentiful, delicious, and packed full of folate, vitamins A and K, plus they’re listed as the #7 best source of antioxidants from the USDA.
So, you wanna give it a try? Yes? Excellent! Let us show you how to prep an artichoke for devouring and cook it to perfection, all courtesy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Start by selecting artichokes with their leaves stil tightly closed, we run the risk of them being too tough when beginning to bloom. Give them a quick rinse and then trim off the small leaves at the base. Trim the base or stalk so it is able to stand upright on its own.
Slice about one inch off the top of the artichoke and then trim the points off the rest of the leaves. I often skip trimming all the leaves, don’t tell Julia! Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise and cut out the choke—the small, hairy looking center—with a paring knife. There! Done! You’re ready to cook your artichokes in any way you desire. I’m including Julia’s recipe for braised artichokes with wine, garlic, and fresh herbs below. This is my favorite preparation for the funny little vegetable. Enjoy!
Julia’s Braised Artichokes with Wine, Garlic, and Herbs
- 6 artichokes, prepared as described above
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 tied herb bundle (4 parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 4 thyme sprigs)
- Parchment paper
- Freshly chopped parsley
Cut artichokes into quarter and blanch in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large cast iron casserole dish over medium heat. Saute onions until soft. Sitr in garlic and arrange artichoke pieces in the casserole. Baste with olive oil, onions, and then season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, being careful not to brown the artichokes.
Add vinegar and wine to the dish. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until reduced by half. Add the herb bundle and lay a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the artichokes. Cover casserole and place in the middle of the oven. Braise for 75-90 minutes, or until liquid has almost entriely evaporated. Discard herb bundle, sprinkle chopped parsley over artichokes, and serve.