my-date-with-martha-did-not-go-well Recipes

roasted baby artichoke failure

Nearly seven years ago, my best friend bought me a subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine as holiday present. Tearing open the wrapping paper, I caught a glimpse of a pyramid stack of rigidly squared off Rice Krispy Treat-style cereal bars on one of those ever-upbeat and brightly lit covers I recognized all too well and protested, “But I don’t read Martha Stewart!”

“Of course you don’t,” she said. “Of course not.”

Martha Stewart was fussy and domestic and a grueling perfectionist who doted on the most inane stuff and I, I, I was all of those things; I just hadn’t come to terms with it yet. I would buy the rag for long train rides and chuck it when I got to my destination; nobody had to know but me. My dirty little magazine-stand secret had dewy, dimly lit pictures of ripe melons all over it, oh yeah, but the authentic kind.

I don’t know when I stopped subscribing (odds are, I haven’t, I just move too damned much) but Martha don’t come round no more, so when we were finally reunited on a New Jersey Transit bus last week, I nearly ate the pages, most pertinently the one with the roasted baby artichokes recipe [link removed as page seems to have disappeared] as I will cook or eat anything in the whole world as long as it involved a single iota of artichoke (“even boogers?” my husband asks and I’ll spare you my answer). I love them that much.

quartered artichokes

I brought home ten miniature artichokes Tuesday night, so adorable I wanted to line them up and create monologues and dance routines for them, but hunger won out. I got to work on them, so excited about the dish I hummed the whole time. Yet, all directions followed to the letter as would make Martha proud (oh, because I do want to make her proud, I really do), 40 minutes later they remained rubbery and undercooked – by quite a bit – and again 20 and then 40 minutes after that. Nearly two hours in a 400 degree oven was all the kitchen blasphemy I could take (if I remind you it was 100 degrees outside, I will be sent to hell, no doubt) and I tried to dig in. They were still bitter. The hearts were cooked but a full minute of chewing couldn’t grind a single leaf in my eager maw.

roasted baby artichokes

Heartbroken, I threw the rest into the trash, but two days later, I still want to know where it all went wrong. But, I first have to confess this isn’t the first time a New Exciting Recipe for baby artichokes failed me; the time I grilled them last year, it was ibid with the rubbery and undercooked, even while cooking them well beyond Mark Bittman’s suggestion.

grilled baby artichokes

Mostly I’m crushed because I don’t know where this leaves me, Martha and all the plans I had for us. I suspect the only way to move past this will be over Chocolate-Strawberry Thumbprints on page 176. It’s for the relationship, you see.

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33 comments on roasted baby artichoke failure

  1. Just stumbled across your blog and I’ve fallen in love with your photos! Sorry to hear about the Martha-unhappiness, but oh well, at least they looked great? Hehehe, hopefully the next time you cross paths with these globes, it’ll be much more tasty :)

  2. I’m in total infatuation with Martha, too. I’ve bought TONS of back issues of MSL off eBay, and I just love them. I love her entertaining tips the most. Her food always looks great, but I’ve had trouble with several of her recipes. I had two completely fail on me in taste, but not on looks – they were still beautiful: scones and gingerbread. She has broken my heart a few times, but I keep going back for more!

  3. What a charming new blog! As a fellow Martha fan, and baby artichoke eater, I have found that they turn out the best when all leaves with any bit of green are removed. It is, of course, sad to see so much artichoke potential go in the trash, but the tender yellow tiny bits that are left are very delicious roasted, so in the end it is worth it. In fact I’m surprised Martha didn’t give these instructions! Oh well, one cannot be perfect all the time.

  4. I can’t find it, but Ina Garten has a great roasted artichoke recipe. Granted, she suggests that you eat the outside leaves by placing them in your mouth, clamping your teeth on them, and then pulling them out, scraping the artichokey goodness off of them and then discarding the particularly fibrous part of the leaf.

  5. Hey, I don’t know if you will ever see this, since it’s, um, 2 years old, but in case you never solved the baby artichoke dilemma here are my mom’s instructions for cooking them. You parboil them, THEN grill them for smoky deliciousness, and they are ridiculously good. We appear to use smaller ones that you, but I think it would still work? Anyway, artichoke season is upon us again, so….
    Man, I need to get a grill pan. And some baby artichokes.

  6. Glad it’s helpful!

    Re. the grill pan, I’ve had my eye on that–we got a Krups panini press for our wedding and I love it but it’s a PAIN to clean. Of course now there are a bunch out there that have removable plates… But the stovetop kind seems like it might be just as good. I was actually talking about the sort of grill….baskets, I guess, that let you grill small things without them falling through the cracks into the fire. I think I like anything grillish.

  7. This is incredibly late–but I just saw this and wanted to add my two cents. I think that Kate F is right–they really need to be parboiled. And also, from the picture, you’re taking off a lot less of the outside than I do–I take off nearly all of the bright/dark green outside leaves. That might be overkill, but if you find that the hearts are cooked and the leaves are not, maybe the outside leaves are just too tough?

  8. Maybe Alton Brown can help you. I saw the artichoke episode of Good Eats the other night and it was very interesting!

  9. I love artichokes more than life itself. Strangely, I’ve never attempted a dry heat approach to cooking them, however, my dad (who is a chef) used to make a fabulous hot salad with grilled artichokes, eggplant, and a lemon-tahini dressing. He always parboiled the artichokes and then grilled them. I imagine parboiling would work well with roasting too?

  10. Huh. I tired a Martha Stewart Recipe for impossibly deliciouso and cutie looking cupcakes, and was (nearly) scared for life, since it was one of my first-ever cake-from-scratch baking attempts. Thank God my love of cake didn’t stop at the ultimate flop from Martha…I guess pictures can be decieving, huh?

  11. this is super late, but!

    i have NEVER had a martha recipe come out good. i buy her magazines (especially the halloween one) and sigh over all the pretty pictures, but every recipe i’ve tried from her has been an inedible disaster. and i’m a good cook.

    it’s not you. it’s her.

  12. Love your site! Artichokes are my favorite too. My Grandmother from Sicily has the best bread crumb, parmesian, garlic stuffed steamed artichokes. Favorite dish of all time. Super easy, and so good, I can’t get myself to make them any other way. I also adapted it with the small artichokes to bake with potatos(colored), garlic, and mushrooms. Delicious as well. Haven’t met a person I have made these for that haven’t liked it, well hasn’t loved it.

  13. I refuse to make any recipe from Martha anymore, have had too many disasters with her recipes… Ina on the otherhand…!

    Just came across this site today, looking forward to reading a little more!

  14. I also just had a similar experience with roasting artichokes, which led me to believe it’s foolish to mess with the perfection that is a steamed artichoke.

  15. I used to buy the boxes of baby chokes from Trader Joe’s, and followed their directions: Peel off all outer, green leaves, trim the bottoms, cut about the top 1/3 off each choke, quarter and soak in a lemon-water bath. Then saute them in olive oil over lowish medium heat with some salt until they are tender and caramelized. You have to do it slowly, and I leave the lid on part of the time, so they do steam a bit, but they turn out tender, nutty and delicious.

  16. Next time par-cook them by steaming or boiling in acidulated water! Sometimes I wonder if even the greatest cooks withhold some of their secrets… I have experimented with baby chokes in the past, and I highly suspect they are not privy to dry cooking techniques. They are not high-moisture vegetables and cannot provide the moisture content to steam themselves.

  17. I am planning to try this challenge myself tonight. I plan to par boil them for 10 before tossing them with garlic olive oil and garlic and setting them under the broiler to brown. Fingers crossed.

  18. I agree with Kristin above. I love Martha Stewart crafts and recipe ideas and the pretty pictures but 90% of her recipes are too complicated, too bland, too unspectacular. (But her magazine is great for inspiration and I love it still!)

    (oh.. and of all the recipes i’ve tried – a modified version of her stove top clam bake and her standing roast recipes turned out nicely – but thats about it. Her desert recipes don’t stand a chance against yours :P )

    Thanks for sharing he failures too- every mistake is a chance to learn something :3

    (I tried battering and frying baby artichokes….they were good but the leaves are really tough still)

  19. I had a similar experience with a few of her recipes. I tried a brussel sprout recipe years ago that made me so angry! I am always wary of them now, but I still get the magazine and have been an avid fan from the beginning – mostly for the photos, gardening stuff, decorating and crafts.

  20. Could the doneness of the artichokes be a matter of taste? They eat them raw in Italy. I haven’t learned to appreciate the raw (or al dente) artichoke so much – I feel the flavor comes through better when they’re cooked, but apparently some people like them that way.

    1. YLB — I like them raw as well but if they’re dry-grilled like this, they get tough and rubbery. I don’t think it is anyone’s ideal. If making them again (and I have), just boil the ‘chokes until they’re mostly tender, pat them dry, drizzle them with oil and grill away. Showered with lemon, salt and sometimes even Parmesan, they’re crackly and amazing.

  21. I just got back from Naples and they roast them there over a fire, but keep them covered with a wet towel as they grill. I had them in a restaurant that gets them from a person who specializes in this particular thing and then brings them into the city for restaurants (hence the outdoor, country barbecue taste). For my part though, I par-boil them. I have a tiny NYC kitchen, and sadly, no fire pit.

  22. There’s a recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook that’s to die for. Perfect balance of nutty, tender, and a little crisp on the edges. I think it’s on the Cooks Illustrated website, as well, if you have a subscription to that.
    Hope you eventually found your artichoke nirvana!

    1. Katie — Ooh, tell me more! I have the original ATK cookbook (though they’ve probably put out 10 since then!) and an online subscription.