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How to Trim Artichokes

Before cooking artichokes, you've got to deal with their sharp outer leaves and the prickly choke inside. Learn how to cut artichokes down to their hearts or bottoms, and how to trim them when steaming them whole.

Produced By: Sarah Breckenridge

Whether you're braising, sautéing, or steaming them, cooking artichokes means  taming their thorny personality: you've got these sharp outer leaves, and the prickly choke inside. In this video, you'll learn how to cut down artichokes to their hearts or bottoms, and how to trim them when you're steaming them whole.

Before you do anything with artichokes, you want to have a bowl of lemon water at hand. The cut surfaces of artichokes tend to brown as soon as they're exposed to air; dropping them into the water as you work will slow down this browning. Squeeze three lemon halves into thebowl of water--no need to pick out the seeds. Hold on to the fourth lemon half to rub directly on the cut surfaces of the artichokes. 

To trim artichokes down to the heart, start by snapping off the dark-green outer leaves until you reach the cone of paler, more tender inner leaves. At this point they're really more yellow than green. 

Cut off the top third of the artichoke and all but 1 inch of the stem. 

Now use a paring knife to  peel away the tough outer layer of the stem and remove the base of the leaves all around. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.

With a spoon or melon baller, scoop out and discard the hairy choke and thorny inner leaves.  If your recipe calls for quartered hearts, just cut them lengthwise, and you're good to go. These go into the bowl of lemon water, and I use a clean wet dishtowel on top to keep them submerged as I work. 

Sometimes a recipe calls for a whole artichoke bottom. This is similar to the heart, but just involves trimming off more of the leaves and stem so it sits flat on the plate.

Pull off the outer leaves again, down to the pale inner cone. But now we cut the leaves much closer to the base, and cut off the entire stem. 

I use my paring knife to trim away the tough green skin on the underside, and then my melon baler to scoop out the prickly choke and thorny inner leaves.

The simplest way to prep an artichoke is if you're steaming it whole. All you do is trim off the stem, leaving about a 1/2 inch. Then pull off any tough small leaves near the bottom. 

Remove the thorny leaf tips by cutting about 1/2 inch from the top. Use kitchen scissors to trim the tops from all the leaves that are a little lower down.  And there you go, the artichoke is ready to steam and serve with a little melted butter for dipping. 

Videography by Michael Dobsevage and Dariusz Kanarek; editing by Cari Delahanty

from Fine Cooking
Issue 104

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