choked.

IMG_0924

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.

kids these days.

Reasons why I might be about 20 years older than my actual age:

Dixieland jazz. A wonderful affliction foisted on my by my father and his parents. Yes, Mom and Dad had Beatles/Stones/etc. records around when I was growing up. But Dad’s enthusiasm for the jazz rubbed off on me a long, long time ago. 1976: I could have been the only 10-year-old on the planet who knew the names of Kid Ory, Eddie Condon, Wild Bill Davison or Bix Beiderbecke. Come to think of it, I’m probably one of the few 41-year-olds on the planet who knows the same.

Manhattans. Again, my father’s fault. Martinis are much hipper — as are probably dozens of other cocktail options — but I like the bourbon and the sweet vermouth.

Newspapers. This is more than a professional problem for me. I do a lot more reading online than I used to, but you can’t lie on the couch and read your computer every Sunday morning. (OK. I know that actually can be done, but I’d still rather wander through an actual Sunday newspaper instead.)

The Tony Kornheiser Show. Mr. Tony occasionally gets ripped for being hopelessly stodgy, but his radio show — on XM 144 from 8:15 to 10 a.m. or via podcast at iTunes — is still his best work. It’s epic.

There’s probably more. I just can’t remember at the moment, because I’m up past my bedtime. Hey — you kids get off my lawn!