Adam Ried's Hunt for the Perfect Artichoke

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

Don’t get into hot water: The typical boiling method is not the way to go.

Adam Ried was on a mission: Come up with the best cooking method for artichokes. Most people simply boil the vegetable in lots of water, but all that guarantees is a soggy artichoke wholly lacking in flavor. We caught up with Adam to see how he made the earthy-tasting vegetable as great as it could be.

Did you start with a five-recipe test?

It wasn’t so much a five-recipe test as it was a five-method test. And it wasn’t so much a five-method test as it was six- or seven-method test. Because from the very beginning this was clearly going to be more about method than recipe. And the goal was to accentuate the flavor of the nuttiness as opposed to washing it out the way it does when you boil it and the artichoke turns into a waterlogged mess.

What were the methods you tested?

I steamed with a rack and without a rack, then I did a boil-braise hybrid where I didn’t submerge the artichokes but the water came a third of the way up the artichoke. The steamed and hybrid ones were okay but the boiled ones were awful—they had no flavor at all. I then tried the typical pasta method where I boiled them in a ton of water. I also microwaved. At the beginning I thought the nuke had some promise: They had a lighter, cleaner flavor, but they weren’t that evenly cooked. I messed around for a while but it was hard to microwave them and get even texture without constantly rotating them. Then I also roasted them three different ways.

  Roasting Methods

What were the three roasting methods?

I found a recipe where you just wrap the artichokes in foil and put them right on the oven rack. I also roasted them whole in a dish and then roasted some that were halved in a dish. The whole foil-wrapped ones without the dish turned out leathery and the leaves got really, really browned. The flavor was good but I figured it was too easy for the texture to go south on that one, so we didn’t go with it. It was easier to put them in the dish, and you also use less foil. The whole ones in the dish also got kind of tough and leathery, which I wasn’t wild for. So that’s how I settled on the halved ones, trimming them and cutting the chokes out.

  Artichokes

One thing I really wanted to use was a pressure cooker. I know not everyone has one, and that’s a reason not to make a recipe dependent on one, but a friend of mine says she always uses a pressure cooker to make artichokes and it takes only 15 minutes. So I tried it and they’re really good! It’s the way I cook them at home now; they don’t taste as rich and sweet and concentrated as when you roast them, but it’s a nice way to have the whole artichoke with fewer of the leaves trimmed off.

How did you come up with a sauce for the artichokes?

We had a big discussion about that because you could go pretty much any way. We didn’t want just a melted butter sauce or a mayo, so we ended up with a roasted-lemon vinaigrette. I’m also a harissa freak; I always have that on hand. Or chermoula. That works really well. Mmmm… artichokes and chermoula. Yummy.

What would you serve the artichokes with, menu-wise?

They go with pretty much everything. They’re great with white fish or salmon. They have the nutty thing going on, so I love a grain salad of some sort with artichoke on the side. And then I use the leaves to scoop up the salad.

  Roasted Artichokes

RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Roasted Artichokes

Now that you know why roasting is the best way to go, give Adam's recipe a try. To accentuate the rich, nutty flavor of the vegetable, serve them with a tangy lemon vinaigrette or a garlicky butter sauce.

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