I have written this before, but I have a theory that children are more willing to try something new if it involves eating with your hands. My kids love edamame, carrot sticks (much more than carrots cut up in a salad), and dumplings. Dips, too, seem to have an allure for kids that extends beyond ketchup and ranch dressing. With their leaves that peel off, artichokes are the ultimate dipping food. And the pointed tips on the leaves make them look like the claw feet of some medieval creature. Good stuff.
I have to admit that I was skeptical when a friend asked if our children liked artichokes. But after they had helped prepare them and saw how they were served, they were hooked. Now that spring is here and they are plentiful, I am hoping that they make a regular appearance on the dinner table. Or maybe even in the lunch box. I wonder how that would go over in the cafeteria?
As for the dipping, the simplest way to serve them is with melted butter, and, at least around here, everything is better with butter. A little lemon juice or minced tarragon added to the butter is also delicious. But my favorite accompaniment is a hollandaise sauce. This version is adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and is very quick because it is made in a blender.
Second Helping: Homemade Ketchup
15 minutes preparation time
25 to 40 minutes cooking time
6 whole fresh artichokes
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
salt and pepper
Fill a very large pot with enough water to submerge all of the artichokes. Bring it to a boil.
To prepare the artichokes, rinse them while they are still whole. With a large serrated knife, cut the top inch off of the artichoke, cutting through all layers of the top leaves. Use scissors to trim the remaining prickly tops off of the lower leaves. When the water has begun to boil, add the artichokes. Boil them until the bottom of the artichoke can be pierced easily with a knife. Depending on the size of the artichokes this could take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes.
While the artichokes are cooking, melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, a few sprinkles of salt and a couple of twists of pepper into a blender. Cover the blender and blend the egg yolk mixture for a couple of seconds just until combined. Uncover the blender and drizzle the butter in veeeerrrrrrryyyyy sssslllloooowwwwwlllllyyyyyy. You can drape a towel around the top of the blender to keep it from splattering. Keep drizzling until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if you like. Transfer the hollandaise to a small bowl and keep it slightly warm by placing it inside a larger bowl that holds just a bit of warm water.
When they are tender, drain the artichokes upside down in a colander. When they are cool enough to touch, remove the choke, which is that fuzzy bit in the in center of the leaves. Pull by the top of the fuzz and it should detach easily. If not, scrape out any remaining fuzz with a spoon.
To eat the artichoke, pull off a leaf, dip the bottom end in the sauce, and scrape the lower part of the leaf between your teeth to remove the flesh. After you have eaten all of the leaves, the heart, which is pure goodness, will remain. You can, of course, cut this up with a knife and fork, but dipping and eating with your hands is still acceptable. Miss Manners might not agree, but sometimes we have to relax those etiquette rules in favor of fun.