Pressure Cooker Artichoke Recipe
Lorna Sass’ great cookbook Pressure Perfect has an excellent section on cooking times for all sorts of vegetables, including artichokes, but she recommends that you not pressure cook any artichoke over 9 ounces. However, most of what’s available in my supermarket are the jumbo artichokes weighing close to a pound each, so of course, I had to take up the challenge and figure out how best to do it. My method has the benefit of doing most of the messiest work of fresh artichokes in advance, removing the choke and the internal thorns before cooking so your kids don’t accidentally swallow hairs and young and tender little hands and mouths can’t be hurt on the thorns. Best of all, by using your electric pressure cooker, you can pressure cook jumbo artichokes in about fifteen minutes!
When you ask people what you use a pressure cooker for, they invariably say meat and beans. And while the pressure cooker makes quick, excellent work of tough cuts of meat and every kind of bean imaginable, another thing it does really well is large spring and summer vegetables like artichokes and Corn on the Cob. Unlike conventional methods, jumbo artichokes don’t take the better part of an hour to cook in a pressure cooker (and they only need a cup of water per batch). In less than the time it normally takes just to cook artichokes, you can prepare, pressure cook and begin eating your artichokes. Even better, during the hot days of late spring and summer, you don’t have to boil a huge pot of water and turn your kitchen into a steam sauna to enjoy them!
Artichoke Shopping Tips. If you’ve ever shopped for artichokes during the wrong time of year, you know that they can be an expensive treat, not a perennial budget friendly vegetable. The trick to getting a decent deal on artichokes is to confine yourself to shopping for them during seasonal peaks and taking advantage of periodic sales at your local supermarket. (Or if you live in a Zone 7 – 9 area like I do in California, and you have the room, you can purchase either Artichoke Seeds or Artichoke Seedlings and grow them yourself. Its easy enough – I’ve done it myself!) But the best way to get a deal on artichokes is to shop for them during seasonal peaks. California provides almost 100% of the United States’ domestic artichoke production, with the season starting in the fall and ending around the beginning of summer, with the height of production during the spring up until the beginning of summer (the Castroville Artichoke Festival is held every year in late May to early June), although if the weather is favorable there could be bumper crops and good prices in the fall as well. Keep an eye on the produce sales advertised in your grocery store circular (especially if you have a vegetable-centric market like Sprouts / Henry’s near you) and be willing to orchestrate your purchases around the sales. For example, last week Vons had huge globe artichokes on sale for 4 for $5.00.
How to Select and Store Artichokes. The artichoke is actually a thistle, and much like broccoli and cauliflower, most of the edible portion of the plant is actually the immature flower bud. Like broccoli, you want a nice green color and for the artichoke to be tight and closed up as much as possible (the photos below are probably about as “open” as you want your artichokes to be – the tighter the artichoke head, the fresher it is). Don’t worry about any browning on the leaves like that shown in the photos below, that’s actually caused by frost, and like a limited number of vegetables, artichokes are actually improved by the “damage” from light frost. Also look at the cut stem end and the browner it is, the longer its been since the artichoke was cut. Once you’ve purchased your artichokes, don’t clean and cut them until immediately before you plan to cook them. You can store the artichokes in the refrigerator in a breathable Ziploc bag with a slightly moist paper towel to help keep them fresh.
Is There Any Way I Can Keep the Fresh Green Color of My Artichokes? Aside from eating your artichokes raw, in my experience the answer is no. That’s not to say that putting a small amount of lemon juice on cut artichoke halves or immersing the cut pieces into a bowl of ice water with some lemon in it won’t help retard the browning which is caused by oxidation. However, like spinach, broccoli and other green vegetables, artichokes get their color from two types of chlorophyll, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. By adding even slight amounts of lemon juice (a strong acid) to the cut artichokes to prevent oxidation and browning, as On Food and Cooking points out, “[i]n even slightly acidic water, the plentiful hydrogen ions displace the magnesium, a change that turns chlorophyll a into grayish-green pheophytin a, chlorophyll b into yellowish pheophytin b”. The lemon juice you add to avoid browning discoloration will most likely increase the chemical changes that will cause your artichokes to turn olive green. Plus the two types of chlorophyll, particularly chlorophyll a, are heat sensitive, and “when the temperature of the plant tissue rises above 140° F / 60° C, the organizing membranes in and around the chloroplast are damaged, and chlorophyll is exposed to the plants own natural acids”. (The temperatures of both boiling water and water in the pressure cooker well exceed 140° F.)
ARTICHOKE TIP: The inch or two of artichoke stem closest to the artichoke bottom are edible, as long as you remove the tough outer layer. If you wish to eat it, leave those two inches on the bottom of the artichoke, and peel it well before cooking. If only two inches of the stem is attached, be sure and trim off a small amount of the bottom to remove any part of the stem that may have toughened after being cut.
2 – 3 jumbo artichokes
1 cup of cold water
Salt to taste
Garlic lemon mayonnaise dip (optional)
Electric Pressure Cooker (with trivet)
12″ Silicone Tipped Tongs
ARTICHOKE PREPARATION TIP: Like many other vegetables, do not wash or cut the artichokes until right before you plan to cook them (and don’t cook them until right before you plan to serve them). Excess water can get stuck in small spaces at the bottom of the leaves and hasten the deterioration of the artichoke. Just like avocadoes, artichokes will begin to oxidize and turn brown as soon as they are cut. So handle them as little as possible, and do as little to them as you can, until you are ready to prepare them.
- Using a chef’s knife, cut off the stem so the bottom of the artichoke will sit flat. (The inch or two of the stem nearest the artichoke is edible, as long as you remove the tough exterior. You can steam it along with the artichoke halves, if desired.)
- The easiest way to cut the artichoke in half is to flip it over, bottom up, and use your chef’s knife to cut it in half. Cut down through the artichoke until you pass the artichoke heart (the point at which there is almost no resistance to the knife), then you should be able to grasp each half and fairly easily pull each half apart.
- (Be careful when handling the inside of the artichoke – those inner leaves can have really sharp thorns near the top of the artichoke, turned inward. You might want to push a finger under the top of the inside leaves, push the tips out slightly and snip off the tops of the inner leaves with your kitchen shears before proceeding.) Place each artichoke half cut side up on the cutting board. Using your paring knife, holding it tip down, cut into the artichoke heart just slightly below the choke. As you can see from the photo above, you’ll cut in an arc shape, just below the hairs, being careful not to pierce the artichoke all the way through. Remove the hairs of the choke and the purple inner leaves.
- Rinse the artichoke halves under cold water to remove any loose choke hairs. Give your cutting board a quick clean to remove any stray hairs that could work their way back into the artichokes.
- Turn the artichoke halves cut side down. Using your kitchen shears, cut the tips of the outer leaves off to remove the thorns. (I find its easier – and less prickly — to start with the bottom leaves and work your way up the artichoke.)
- Using either your chef’s knife or your kitchen shears, cut off enough of the top of the artichoke to remove the thorns (at least ½”). If you have not already done so, clip off the thorns from the inside leaves of the artichoke.
- Place the trivet, artichoke halves, and 1 cup of cold water to the bowl of the pressure cooker (artichokes should be loosely packed – I can get the equivalent of three jumbo artichokes into mine). Lock the lid. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE for 6 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. (If you want to do two vegetables at once, and you have extra room, you can add in some 2″ potato chunks into any spare space in the pressure cooker.)
- When the timer goes off, turn off the “keep warm” function and manually release the pressure (quick pressure release). Once pressure has been released, remove the lid, holding it at an angle, top side towards you, over the pot to allow any hot water to fall back into the bowl. Set the lid aside. Using your tongs, remove the artichoke halves from the pressure cooker and place them on a plate. To test for doneness, you should be able to easily remove a leaf from the top of the artichoke.
- Serve the pressure cooked artichokes immediately, while piping hot, with lemon slices (cut in eighths) and a garlic lemon mayonnaise dipping sauce (optional). Salt to taste.
TO LEMON JUICE OR NOT TO LEMON JUICE?: Particularly if you’re making more than one batch (3 jumbo artichokes), you may be tempted to sprinkle lemon juice on the cut halves or store them in ice water with lemon before cooking. While its true that the acid of the lemon juice will help prevent oxidation (just as it does with cut avocadoes), On Food and Cooking tells us that even a weak acid solution will help convert the two primary kinds of chlorophyll (which produces the green color in artichokes) into the corresponding forms of pheophytin, which produces a duller green color. (Lemon juice won’t change the color further after the artichoke has been cooked, however.)
ARTICHOKE TIP: When pressure cooking artichokes, as soon as the timer goes off, turn off the heat, release pressure and remove the lid immediately. Leaving artichokes under residual pressure, even for just a few minutes, can overcook them. Artichokes are done when you can easily remove the leaves. If your artichokes seem slightly underdone, you can always place them back on the trivet inside the pressure cooker and put the lid back on loosely to let the residual heat of the artichokes continue to cook them. Check every few minutes and remove when fully cooked.
ARTICHOKE BUYING TIPS: The best way to get a good deal on fresh artichokes is to purchase them strategically during the domestic growing season (fall through late spring, possibly a little later if the weather in California is mild). Keep an eye on the weekly sales circular for your local markets, especially if you have a store like Sprouts / Henry’s where fruits and vegetables are the featured loss leaders. The peak of the growing season is in spring, but if the weather is favorable, bumper crops – and lower prices – can happen in the fall, too. Be prepared to adjust your weekly menus to take advantage of special sale prices.
- 2 – 3 jumbo artichokes
- 1 cup of cold water
- Salt to taste
- Lemon slices
- Garlic lemon mayonnaise dip (optional)
- Use your chef's knife to cut the stem off each artichoke so it sits flat.
- Turn each artichoke over, bottom up, and use your chef's knife to cut it in half lengthwise. Cut through the bottom until you've cut through the artichoke heart, then remove the knife, grasp each half with one hand, and you should be able to pull the two halves apart.
- Use your kitchen shears to snip off the sharp barbs at the top of the inner petals. Place the artichoke halves cut side up on your cutting board. Holding the paring knife horizontally, push the tip into the artichoke heart just below the choke. Cut the heart just below the choke, removing and discarding the "hairs" and the purplish inner "leaves".
- Rinse the artichoke halves thoroughly under cold water to remove any stray "hairs" from the choke. Clean your cutting board to prevent any stray hairs from getting back into your artichoke halves.
- Turn the artichoke hearts cut side down. Working from bottom to top, use your kitchen shears to cut off the tops of each leaf.
- Using either your chef's knife or your kitchen shears, cut off at least ½" from the top of the artichoke to remove the last of the thorns.
- Add the trivet, artichoke halves, and 1 cup of cold water to the pressure cooker. Lock the lid. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE for 6 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE.
- When the timer beeps, turn off the "keep warm" setting and force pressure release. Once the lid unlocks, remove it, holding it at an angle over the pot so any hot water can drop down in the bowl. Put it aside and use your tongs to remove the artichoke halves. Artichokes are done when you can easily remove individual leaves.
- Serve the artichoke halves as soon as possible. Salt to taste. Serve with lemons divided into eighths or a garlic lemon mayonnaise sauce (optional). Enjoy!