choked.

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I should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.

Cooking.

Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.

Eating.

I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

the beam.

This is awesome on all kinds of levels, but I was especially excited to see some tight shots of The Beam, the big thing with the piano strings that Mickey’s beating on. Those vibrations, when amplified through a concert PA system in an arena like, say, Richfield Coliseum, could rattle your sternum. If I were to ever assemble a bucket list, playing a Beam at high volume would be near the top.

above and beyond.

First, let’s make sure you’ve all seen this comment, left by Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown) winner Kewyson on the previous post:

Now, on to my wish (I thought I’d get three) – I propose, assuming UC is okay with this, that he organizes a social gathering at Bocktown – all participants are welcome – and I will donate my hard earned winnings to whatever $50 buys. All I ask is that I be remembered and idolized at the event (and since I’ve not personally met most of you – you can pick any idol and pretend).

How does that sound UC?

In short, Kewyson, it sounds awesome, and I really appreciate your generosity. Here’s what we’ll do: when the weather gets warm enough for our friends at Bocktown Robinson to open their back porch, we’ll do a Friday night happy hour, and we’ll use our $50 prize to buy drafts for any TAUCNFFC contestants who can show up. There will be plenty of notice, so we can get as many people as possible out to Bocktown on the chosen evening.

And as far as idolizing Kewyson goes, it’s not a bad idea; he is, in fact, the only person I know who actually speaks writes in tongues.

one.

Ugh.

Ugh.

The Dook Blue Devils won last night’s title game, and that makes long-time participant Kewyson our Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown) champion.

According to the AUCNFFC Wall of Champions — which badly needs to be updated — Kewyson has just become just the second contestant ever to repeat as our AUCNFFC champion. He joins Mr. Burns for that illustrious honor, a feat that should be commemorated with a t-shirt or something.

But first, there is a question. For the first time since the AUCNFFC prizes became actually fabulous, we have an out-of-market winner. So, Kewyson, how shall we proceed? Planning a visit to Pittsburgh anytime soon and in need of a $50 Bocktown gift card? Or would you like the cash equivalent, which will be roughly $50?

While Kewyson mulls his options, let me thank you once more for participating. It’s been awesome to be able to do this for ten years, and even as I slide back into my lazy posting habits, know that I plan on being back here next March for the Eleventh Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown). I hope I see you then.

two.

wisky

Man, I can’t stand Duke. I don’t like Wisconsin much either, but as always: #B1G

We’ve had a great run, but as is the case with the tournament itself, we’re down to just two contestants left with a chance to win the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown).

But before we get there, let’s take a moment to recognize the folks who made it through Final Four weekend alive. Adam, Work Kelly, Daria and Yours Truly deserve a pat on the back for recognizing the promise of Wisconsin or Dook in the week before the tournament began.

And that leaves just two of us with a shot at winning this year’s $50 Bocktown gift card grand prize. Jenny Lee got there on the basis of correctly picking three of the Final Four teams — the only one of us to do so — and Kewyson was the only one of us to correctly pick both teams that made it to the title game.

And, fortunately for me, the result will be straightforward. If the Badgers down Dook, Jenny is our TAUCNFFC champion. If the Dookies prevail, Kewyson will be our winner.

Good luck to both Jenny and Kewyson tonight and thanks to each of you for playing. We’ll see you back here next year.