Spring has sprung, and what better way to ring in the season of new beginnings than with baby artichokes.
The baby artichoke is actually not any younger than a regular-sized artichoke. It even comes from the same plant that bears the large, one pound gems you find in the market. An artichoke plant can send up a variety of different sized stalks, some large, some medium, and some small.
While the large artichokes have meatier petals that are delicious steamed and dipped in a garlicky aioli, they contain chokes, or the hairy center, which is a bit of a pain to remove. Baby artichokes on the other hand don’t have a choke and can be eaten almost whole, with just some minor trimming. Because they are considered less desirable than the larger artichokes, you can often find them for far less money, especially between March and May when they are in season.
A simple and flavorful way to enjoy baby artichokes is to saute them with fragrant shallots and garlic, cooked down in a bright lemon-wine sauce, and baked in the oven until tender and melt-in-your-mouth good. This side dish is fantastic with a sauteed piece of sea bass or your favorite meaty white fish. Or serve them as the French do: with a green salad, slice of nutty cheese, and a glass of crisp white wine.
Adapted from the Le Creuset Mini-Cocotte cookbook
Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and author of FunFearlessFoodie.com
20 baby artichokes
2 shallots, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup dry white wine(sauvignon blanc or chardonnay work well)
2 tbsp fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. To prepare the artichokes: Fill a large bowl with water and add the juice of 2 lemons, plus the lemon pieces. Cut off the stems of the baby artichokes, leaving a 1-inch piece, and peel the remaining stems with a peeler, removing the fibrous threads. Peel back the first few layers of tough outer leaves, and cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke. Cut each artichoke in half and place immediately in lemon water to prevent the artichokes from turning brown. If they begin to brown while preparing, rub them generously with lemon.
2. Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a saute pan over medium-low heat; add the shallots and garlic and cook slowly until they become fragrant and translucent, turning the heat down if they begin to color. Add the artichokes face down, the juice of 1 lemon, and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
3. While the artichokes are cooking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Gather a small baking dish or 4 mini cast iron cocottes (available from Le Creuset) to finish cooking the artichokes.
4. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add the zest, thyme, and salt and pepper; cook for another 10 minutes, until a syrupy glaze forms in the bottom of the pan and the artichokes have softened.
5. Transfer the artichokes and all the pan drippings into the baking dish or mini-cocottes, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the outer leaves of the artichokes are tender.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper, top with some additional fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil; serve hot.