So I'll start this off with a nod to Susan Russo of Foodblogga. She has an absolutely fabulous guide to selecting and preparing fresh artichokes so I can't take complete credit for the guidelines on how to do those things. However, I've repeated her method several times and it always works. What never fails to escape me is which poor sap initially thought this strange vegetable would be good to eat.
Whoever they were, they took one for the team -- the combination of sweet artichoke with the spicy, lemony, creamy goodness of Hollandaise sauce is alarmingly decadent. However, I consider this something every good cook should know how to make, so I'm sharing my methods.
To prepare the artichoke:
Using a large sharp knife, cut off the base stem and top 1/5 of the artichoke. Pull off any dead or bruised leaves and use kitchen shears to trim the tips off of the leaves on the sides. Very carefully pull the sides of the artichoke open until the purple flower of the choke is visible. I like to use a grapefruit spoon for this, but a regular spoon works fine -- pluck out the flower and scrape out the fuzz in the bottom of the choke. Working quickly, rub the surface with a sliced lemon and squeeze some juice into the cavern where the flower once was, lest you want a brown and oxidized artichoke.
For this recipe, you will need:
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
a few dashes of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup melted butter
In a large covered pot, heat the artichokes in about 2 inches of water over medium heat with a dash of salt and lemon juice. Allow to simmer and steam for about half an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, being careful to not let them fall apart.
Using either a blender or a countertop mixer with a whisk setting, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and pepper flakes. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until very hot, but watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. With the blender or whisk on high speed, pour the butter in a very thin stream into the yolk mixture. It will end up thickening almost immediately, so there's no need to continue mixing after the butter is all incorporated.
I like to serve the artichoke with a bit of Hollandaise put into the center of the cavern, but others prefer to serve it on the side. Pluck a leaf off, dip into the sauce and using your bottom teeth, scrape the meat off of the fibrous outer leaf. As you progress to the center the leaves will get more tender, eventually ending with the coup de grace: the heart. Smother it in Hollandaise and smile.