Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Stuffed Artichokes - Do not be afraid!
I can clearly remember the first time I ever had an artichoke. I was probably about 7 years old and I was extremely picky. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas and my whole family was sitting around the dining room table. My brother told me he was going to show me how to eat one and since I was always looking for attention from my older brother or sister I wasn't going to say no. In case you never had an artichoke this is how you eat it. Pick off a leaf and use your front teeth to scrape the stuffing and the meat of the leaves off while pulling the leaf away from you. I know some people are put off by eating with their hands or have no idea what to do with an artichoke but hopefully this will help you to see how easy it is. Don't miss out on another artichoke!!!
I make artichokes two different ways, the way my mother taught me and another way that I picked up when I became interested in cooking. My mother keeps most of the artichoke in tact and only cuts of the tops of the artichoke and removes the stem to make a flat surface. Keeping the outer leaves on gives you more leaves for stuffing but those outer leaves aren't as tender as the inner leaves. The other way is to remove most of the tougher outer leaves. You will have less leaves to stuff but practically all of the leaves will be completely edible. Another difference between these two methods are the preparation of the heart of the artichoke. The heart is the bottom of the artichoke which is extremely tender and creamy. This is what you find in cans and frozen in the supermarket. They have some leaves attached and are cut into pieces. I use them in many dishes. So my mother's method leaves the heart completely in tact. Once you get to the heart you use your spoon or knife to remove the choke. The choke MUST NOT be eaten. You seriously will choke on it if you try to eat it. The 2nd method is to use your spoon to remove the purplish leaves from the heart and scrape out the choke before cooking. This gives you a nice hole in the center for stuffing. Either way you chose to make them (and these are not the only two ways!) they will be great. I love artichokes they can be fun, they can be elegant but most of all they are delicious!
I am unable to give you amounts for the stuffing because it really depends on your preference. Some people like a lot of stuffing and some people like very little or no stuffing at all. It also depends on how large your artichokes are and if you are removing the choke and some inner leaves. You'll need more stuffing for the center. So just use this as a guide, I have faith in you!
Artichokes - cleaned and prepared for stuffing and stems removed and peeled
Plain breadcrumbs or Italian breadcrumbs
Locatelli Romano cheese, grated
onion, cut into small pieces
fresh parsley, chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into small pieces
chicken broth or chicken bouillon
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1. Prepare artichokes by one of the methods described above. Wash them out and drain. Artichokes will turn black once they are cut. You can put them in a bowl with lemon to stop them from oxidizing and turning or you can just ignore it b/c you won't notice that once they are cooked.
2. If using plain breadcrumbs season them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and some Romano cheese. If using the seasoned breadcrumbs just add the cheese.
3. Spread the leaves open with your thumb but be careful no to break off those leaves. Stuff the artichoke with breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, onion, parsley and pieces of parmigiano reggiano. Add this stuffing between the leaves and in the center.
4. Once all artichokes are stuffed put them in a pot and fill with water (or chicken broth) until halfway up the artichoke. Make sure they are in a pot that fits the artichokes in tightly. This prevents the artichokes from falling apart once they become tender. If you have too much space in between your artichokes and can't go down to a smaller pot use this tip. Peel a potato (or as many as you need) and add it the pot standing upright. The potatoes get a wonderful flavor and can be served along with the artichokes. Add the artichoke stems in between the artichokes wherever you can fit them. Don't throw these away. They are very tasty and actually taste just like the heart. Drizzle the tops of the artichokes with oil.
5. Once the water comes to a boil add some chicken bouillon granules if using and put a lid on the pot. Lower the flame and let the artichokes cook for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours or until tender and the leaf easily pulls away from the artichoke.
If you have a lot of broth left over you can serve with some broth and dip your bread into it. It has a really nice flavor.