The Best Way to Cook Artichokes Is Also the Easiest
Featuring Miele’s Combi-Steam Oven
Growing up, there were only a few dishes that really said “special occasion” to me. , which my mom would stuff with mint chocolate chip ice cream for birthdays and anniversaries, was definitely one of them. Lobsters were another, because cooking and breaking them down felt like such an event. And would you be surprised to hear that the third was a steamed vegetable—artichokes, no less?
While or green beans were practically a nightly affair, my mom only steamed artichokes a few times a year, during the spring and summer months when they were abundant at the market and it was warm enough to sit outside on the deck. My sister and I would gleefully tear ours apart, dipping each leaf in butter and scraping the meat off with our teeth, while my dad grilled up the rest of our dinner.
I remember my parents being vaguely surprised by how much we liked them, with their imposing thorny blossoms and somewhat sophisticated flavor profile. But with instructions that included “use your hands and dip it in the butter,” how could we not be excited to dig in?
For years, I probably made artichokes about as often as my mom did—if that. And whenever I did, it was usually that involved painstakingly down to the heart, which would leave me swearing them off for another year. But this spring and summer, I'm changing things up. I’ve reacquainted myself with the steamed artichoke, and decided to make this couldn’t-be-easier dish my go-to dinner party appetizer for the season...or even my go-to lazy dinner for one, alongside a simple salad or some leftover roast chicken.
If, like me, you normally think of artichokes as fussy to prepare, or maybe have never steamed them before, allow me to shed some light on how simple the process is for steaming:
First, trim the stem slightly. I like to leave them a bit long for presentation, but if you want yours to sit upright for serving trim them to about 1/2 inch. Then, tear off the hard, woody outermost leaves from the base.
Next up, cut the top quarter of the artichoke completely off with a very sharp knife. After that, trim the thorns off each remaining leaf with kitchen shears. Some people like to cut the artichokes in half at this stage and remove the fuzzy choke by scraping it out with a melon baller or a spoon, which you can totally do if you like; I might suggest this if you’re serving a big meal and expect each person to only want half of an artichoke instead of a whole one. But in an effort to keep things on the simpler side, I prefer to leave them whole and let folks deal with the choke when they get there.
Finally—this step is important!—rub each cut surface with a halved lemon or squeeze the whole thing with lemon juice to be safe. This will keep the artichoke from darkening due to oxidation. (You might see some recipes call for keeping your trimmed artichokes in lemon water; this does the exact same thing.) To minimize browning, I’ll squeeze each artichoke with lemon as I go instead of waiting until they’re all trimmed.
When you’re ready to steam, you can prepare a steamer basket in a large pot with a few inches of water, hack a steamer with some handy household items, or use the settings on your steam oven for an even easier route (if you happen to be one of the lucky ducks to have a combi-steam oven at home).
Instead of just simple melted butter, I up the special occasion-feel for this childhood favorite by preparing a few homemade dipping sauces. At the moment, classic garlic aioli is the reigning favorite, but all kinds of sauces work great, like compound herb butters, vinaigrettes, or pesto mayonnaise.
But for those lazy nights when it’s just me, good ol' Hellmann’s plus a squeeze of lemon and a grated clove of garlic (or three, since I’m by myself) is just as good.
Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli
About this Recipe: This simple appetizer is a nice way to kick off a spring dinner...or you can throw in a charcuterie plate and call it a complete meal. A quick note on the aioli: This recipe covers an easy way to make a classic aioli—which packs a very garlicky punch—in a blender or food processor. If your crowd might prefer a milder flavor, you can sub two heads of roasted garlic for the four raw cloves, or grate in the raw garlic at the end to taste. Substituting a neutral-flavored oil for the more traditional olive oil will also yield a slightly milder result (that would technically be mayonnaise). Speaking of which, if you’re short on time, just whisk up the grated garlic and lemon juice with 1 1/2 cups of your favorite prepared mayonnaise instead of pulling out the food processor.
Serves: 6 to 8
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min
- 6 large artichokes
- 1 lemon, plus more lemon juice to taste if desired
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup very good mild, fruity olive oil
- To prep the artichokes for steaming, pull off the outermost leaves and discard. Trim the stem, leaving 1 inch attached. Cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke and discard. Snip off remaining thorns with kitchen shears. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon.
- Add a few inches of water, the juice from your cut lemon, and 1 teaspoon salt to a large pot, then fit with a steamer basket and bring water to simmer. Add the artichokes, stem side facing up. Cover and steam until the artichokes are cooked through (leaves should pull out easily and heart will be fork-tender), about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the aioli: In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine egg yolks, the juice of the remaining lemon (about 2 tablespoons lemon juice), Dijon mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Finely grate garlic on top. Blitz to combine. Slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin, steady stream, processing until the aioli is thick and creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Aioli can be made ahead of time and will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- When artichokes are tender, remove from the steamer and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice (if desired). Serve warm with the aioli for dipping.
By: Cory Baldwin