Last week I was out to dinner, and one of the appetizer specials was a stuffed artichoke.
I was immediately transported to my childhood. If you grew up in an Italian family, chances are, stuffed artichokes graced your Sunday dinner table at one time or another. There’s just something about the stuffing – and the effort to eat them, because Lord knows they are a ton of work for very little (delicious) reward – and gliding the leaves over your teeth to remove the ‘meat’.
In my family, my Grandma Rose was the stuffed artichoke expert. She was also the best roasted potato maker; so much so that we would joke that her oven had magical powers because every time she made them, they came out crispy and brown on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside (but I digress).
Anyway, I’ll never forget one Sunday my grandmother had just taken the Corning Ware dish (the white one, with the blue flowers on the front) of stuffed artichokes out of the oven and placed them on the top of the stove to cool. We had both turned our backs for two seconds when all of a sudden we heard a giant CRACK! only to find that the Corning Ware dish (which is designed to withstand high oven heat) cracked apart, scattering shards of ceramic glass on the stove top, on the floor, and – unfortunately – in the artichokes.
Back then, I had no idea how much effort she had put into making those artichokes (not to mention the expense), and why she was so upset when she watched my dad toss them away. Now that I’m older, and I’ve made an artichoke or two in my life, I can appreciate how labor intensive artichokes are. In fact, when I make them, I only make them for me and Mr. KK. My grandmother used to make them for the entire family.
The stuffed artichoke I had at the restaurant the other night was delicious. With a few pieces of bread to dunk in the stuffing and juice, it was practically a meal in itself (when I go back in the near future to have it again, it will be). I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. So much so, that I made stuffed artichokes for dinner tonight. And I have to say, they were mighty delicious.
I’m going to try and share the recipe here, because they were that good. But, like any home cook, I made up the recipe as I went along. So, I’ll do my best…
kk’s Stuffed artichoke recipe
2 large artichokes
1 lemon, halved
4-5 slices of bread, processed into crumbs (I used wheat because it’s what I had)
1 clove of garlic, grated
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
olive oil (maybe 1/4-1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
I parboiled the artichoke hearts so they didn’t take as long to cook. Before cooking, I cut the top of the artichoke off (maybe about the top 15%) until I could see the ‘choke’ inside. I then trimmed the coarse, pointy leaves on the outside. I put the artichokes with the lemon in a pot of water and brought it to a boil, cooking the artichokes about 20-25 mins until you can insert a knife into the base easily, but not until they start to fall apart.
While the artichokes are boiling I made the stuffing. Combine the bread crumbs, cheeses, garlic, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Stuffing should be moistened, but not too wet. Once the artichokes are out of the water, I cut the stems off, peel them, and then dice the soft flesh up and put it into the stuffing (that’s just me, you don’t have to do this).
When the artichokes are cooled, open them up slightly until you can use a spoon or tongs to remove the ‘choke’ (the interior prickly leaves, sometimes the ends are purple). Place the artichokes in a casserole dish (oven safe) and fill the middle cavity with stuffing. Then, open up the outer leaves slightly and put stuffing between as many leaves as you can until you use it all up. Drizzle the artichokes with olive oil. Put a bit of water in the casserole dish (I also put white wine in because, why not?) and then cook them in the oven for about 20 minutes until the stuffing is crispy.
Get ready to get messy, there is no sophisticated way to eat a stuffed artichoke. You will literally need a shower after you’re done.
But, man on man, do they remind me of my childhood, and my Grandma Rose.