Updated: Sep 3, 2019
Bring back memories of holidays in the south of France, sucking the buttery sauce off the soft flesh of the spiky artichoke petals.
Look at these beauties! Although I can see why they'd be pretty daunting to the 'amateur artichoker', and there are times I shy away from them; for example I've not done this yet for a dinner party, but that's partly because I don't own saucepans big enough to boil more than two of these at a time!
And boiling is key to this - it's so simple really, with little to no prep work, save to make sure your artichoke globes are clean and don't have too long stems. When I next cook these I'll take a picture of them in the massive Le Creuset that I use to boil them in - and the crackpot ways I find to try and keep their bobbing heads down under the water!
Once you do have your globes boiling away, as submerged as possible, then we come to timings. This isn't an exact science but roughly speaking about 20-30minutes does it for massive mommas this size. You'll see the cooking water turn purplish brown and the edges of the bottom petals just look 'done'. Test it by trying to stick a kitchen knife in somewhere around where the stalk meets the petals (the heart) and if it goes in at all, you should be there cooking-wise.
While this is all going on, prepare your dipping sauce. I usually melt an obscene amount of butter in a little thick-bottomed saucepan and then squeeze in about half a lemon and a good few twists of black pepper. Zhoosh it up a bit adding some shop-bought or homemade vinaigrette - my particular favourite is that gloopy French stuff you get in Carrefour that looks like beaten eggs and tastes like every French salad ever.
Finally, risk life, limb and a trip to the serious burns unit as you take the artichokes out of the boiling water. Be all poncy like me and put them on your special Emma Bridgewater artichoke serving plate and then start the destruction! Peel off each petal and use it to scoop some of the buttery sauce into your mouth. Use your front teeth to scrape the flesh off the petal and discard it, medieval style over your shoulder (or back onto the plate). Keep going until you get to the final few deliciously supple and soft petals. Don't be greedy - stop before you get to the hairy bits! And now the precision bit...
Take a very sharp, but reasonable small, knife and gently cut around the petals, with the knife slipping into the heart at about a 45deg angle. Promise I will put pictures up of this the next time we do it to show you. The aim though is to release the hairy bit and keep them away from the soft, utterly wonderful heart, that you then cut up and either share out or eat up greedily all by yourself along with whatever is left of the buttery dipping sauce.
The only variation I can think of is with the dipping sauce. Some go full vinaigrette, but I think that's a bit antisocial on the garlic breath afterwards; others would just do full butter. Feel your way.
Inspiration came my husband and his childhood holidays in the south of France when this was one of the more fun evening meals - something of the theatre about it, and so it sticks in his memory. We now delight in it, and enjoy preparing it and the ritual of peeling of each petal and soaking it in sauce before ripping into it - and daring each other to cut closer and closer to the heart - the threat of the hairy bit ever present!
Goes without saying that this is FABULOUS with a chilled Provence rosé, but the rich buttery sauce would also make it a perfect match for a Chablis (or other white Burgundy) or something Sancerre-ish from the Loire.