Lessons in Braising Artichokes

Artichokes are one of my all time favorite vegetables but it is a truly rare occasion I decide to cook with them. They never seem to come out right and all the preparation dealing with sharp spikes and annoying fuzz turns out to be for nothing.

But just look at the artichokes this spring! They are beautiful and have been calling my name ever since the temperature rose above 50. Because I should be able to cook something I love to eat so much, I decided to try a new method of artichoke preparation, braising. I used the Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil recipe from Smitten Kitchen as a guideline, the recipe uses simple ingredients that you can add to taste and alter whatever you want. Here goes…

Start prepping the artichokes by cutting off an inch from the top. Try not to spike yourself. Inevitably spike yourself anyway. Pull spikes out of your fingers. Repeat. 

Remove the leaves until you get to the pale yellow ones on the inside, then cut off all the leaves where they meet the heart. Remove the rough fibery parts of the stalk with a sharp knife, then immediately put artichokes into a bowl of cold water mixed with the juice of one lemon to keep them from browning. Got it? (Mine browned a little bit anyway.)

prepping artichokes

Then prepare the braise. Heat some oil in a deep skillet or a wide pot (I used a skillet for lack of a better tool at my new place, but the recipe called for something deeper), then add three chopped shallots, 1/4 tsp of coriander, 1/4 tsp fennel seed and garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add 1.5 cups of hot water, salt, pepper and zest of one lemon. I omitted the carrot because I didn’t feel like buying a whole pack for just a one carrot. Damn you Trader Joe’s for being so annoyingly limited when it comes to produce. And seasonings, for that matter.

(This is when I realized I ruined everything. As a good chef can probably tell by the photo below, I added way too much lemon zest, more specifically too much white part of the lemon. I didn’t realize it would have such a profound affect later on.)

Bring to a simmer then add the artichoke hearts face down making them stand upright in the pan. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the artichokes are knife tender. Then remove artichokes and set aside to cool.

braised artichokes

When I went to take the first bite to try it out, the braise was SO bitter, inedible actually. The white part of the lemon zest killed it. At that point there was really nothing I could do to salvage my dear chokes. So when you add lemon zest, add no white part, AT ALL. Meh.

artichokes in skillet

I finished the recipe anyway hoping that the artichokes might still taste good at the end. When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the fuzzy choke part, then cut them in half, lengthwise. Then heat some more oil in the pan and brown the inside part of the artichokes. Serve by drizzling the sauce (if you didn’t kill it) over the artichokes. I ate the artichokes anyway. They did not taste good.

finished artichokes

They look good at least!

Even though I’m still BITTER about this, there was an upside. I now know how to braise artichokes and I know exactly how much lemon zest it takes to ruin something. Tough break, lesson learned.

Next time artichokes, you will be edible and you WILL be mine.

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11 Responses to Lessons in Braising Artichokes

  1. Dan says:

    I ate them and they weren’t that bad. Good try- you’ll get um’ next time.

  2. Megan says:

    This was a great post even if you found the artichokes inedible because I’ve never been sure how to trim them and prepare them for anything other than steaming. Now I now what parts to remove and what they should look like.

  3. Daisy says:

    i hate when i screw up a recipe. there’s always next time! and these artichokes at least look good!!

  4. Tom says:

    hey, i have always had a better experience when i remove the inside “choke” (purple fuzzy part) before a start the braise, also if you use more lemon initially when soaking them they wont turn brown, also how you have face down in the pan, that is good, but try using a peeler instead of a sharp knife you take away way less good stuff, and a good peeler may solve your lemon zest problem as well

  5. Michelle says:

    These are some beautiful photos of artichokes!

  6. Melissa says:

    Interesting post! I’ve never prepared artichokes at home either, but I love eating artichoke hearts. Looks hard to peel it right!

  7. I just eat em steamed with lemon aioli! So easy, and so much fun!

  8. Sues says:

    I absolutely love artichokes, but don’t often make them at home either. These look delicious at least 🙂 I had no idea the lemon would have made such a big affect, either!

  9. No worries, happens to the best of us! I’ve made that mistake with overly zesting lemons too… it usually doesn’t happen again 🙂

  10. Despite the end result- great post! It’s awful when a recipe fails you-but you did a beautiful job working with the artichokes-you’ll definitely get a better result next time!

  11. Lucy says:

    Speaking of kitchen failures. I had a terrible Somerville Test Kitchen failure over cinco de mayo. I tried to make Queso Blanco. Sounds easy right? You make mac and cheese it can’t be too hard. WRONG. so hard. so so hard. I tried TWICE. I think I didn’t use authentic enough cheese…heady VT monterey jack doesn’t cut it.

    SO I challenge you! TO MAKE QUESO. DO IT. I looked up like 18 recipes and ended up doing a roux, but it still didn’t work. Please make this happen. Thank you.

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