CHOKE. We’ve all done it. That moment in time when you’re struggling with an uphill battle and there are no guarantees. Suddenly it hits you like a ton of bricks…you are taking on a nearly impossible task. Obstacles to be transcended, burning muscles to work through – insecurities to absorb, accept and free. Yet deep in your heart you know you can’t get to the good stuff by skipping the hard work.
Ugh. Many moons ago I was a singer in a band. Singing was a lifelong dream and it seemed finally I had overcome the fears that had held me back from belting it out on stage. After months of practice, song writing and sweat…and with the aid of a couple of pints downed moments before a gig (??) I was perfectly fine….ummmm yeah that’s it…puuuurrrrfectly fine…or not! My last gig was at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. It was the largest venue I had ever played and quite simply I CHOKED. Yup. Just stopped singing and stood gaping at the crowd. Luckily that second pint set in and I managed to limp through the rest of the show. But that was it, I quit singing then and there. Sigh.
My biggest hurdle was comparison. There are singers out there who can blow your socks off without a second thought. Sound and soul that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. My point of reference was always Mahalia Jackson. Surely if you cannot evoke that sort of reaction in people you don’t belong up on a stage. Well let me tell you that is complete and utter bollocks! After 44 years I finally know and accept that my gifts are completely unique and cannot be replicated or offered by anyone other than me! Which is super special. The good news is I’ve gotten back to my music and have decided to share it on MMH this year. It’s never too late 😉
This revelation took a long time but accepting the fact that there is no such thing as perfection has taken the pressure off nearly everything. Am I the best singer, photographer, baker, writer, mom, friend, partner, sister or daughter? Nope. Not possible – and you know what those sure are a lot of hats to wear. It would be exhausting to even try. I’ve just accepted that the best things in life are hard to get to and very far from what your expectations might be.
Artichokes – case in point. They are a pain in the arse. We are in the middle of artichoke season right now. Is it worthwhile to take the choke out of the artichoke? It sure is. Those prickly tough little suckers offer up one of the seasons finest flavours. Do the work and don’t let the choke stop ya!
How to Take the Choke Outta the Artichoke
Artichokes are delicate little creatures. After you bring them home they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Taking the choke out of the artichoke and trimming them takes quite a bit of work, but it’s worth it. Make sure you have a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice of a lemon next to you before embarking on this process. Artichokes turn brown at record speed. As soon as you start to peel them they will start to change colour. In order to avoid this you need to put the artichoke hearts in water as soon as possible.
Start this process by pulling off the green spiny outer leaves to expose the paler yellow leaves. Then take a sharp knife and cut the top off the artichoke (about one inch in). Trim the end off the stem and with a paring knife trim the tough outside layer off the stem and underside of the artichoke heart. For this recipe I did not use the leaves, only the heart so it was easier for me to take the choke out (you can just cut it off with a knife). If you prefer to use the tender leaves cut the artichoke in half and scoop the choke out with a melon baller or spoon. There are some terrific illustrated directions on BonAppetit.com
Creamed Artichoke Hearts and Potato with Tarragon
4 large artichokes
1/4 C fresh tarragon leaves (you can use dried)
1 large onion sliced chopped
2 cups white potatoes cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
3 Tbsp chicken schmaltz (fat) – You can substitute butter but it’s not as good
Preheat oven to 425F.
Prepare the artichoke as I direct above.
In a cast iron pan heat chicken schmaltz. When fat is shimmering add the onions, garlic, sliced artichokes and potatoes. Saute on medium heat until the onions and artichokes are lightly golden or about 10-15 minutes. Set the artichokes mixture aside and deglaze the pan with white wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Then add the cream, stock, tarragon and salt. Add the artichoke mixture and and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the potatoes and artichokes are golden and liquid has been mostly absorbed.