4.24.2010

Stuffed Artichokes: One Method, Two Recipes



















Of all the seasonal fruits and vegetables, I most look forward to seeing beautiful, large green artichokes in the produce section when spring comes. This year, artichokes were nowhere to be found, except for little, brown shriveled chokes up until about two weeks ago. Usually, I hope to see artichokes in the stores around Easter time, but this year I had to wait a bit longer. In my family, eating stuffed artichokes in the springtime, especially on or around Easter, is tradition. I always recall one of our family's Easter celebrations at my grandparents' house in 1986, likely because there was a fabulous VHS recording of the festivities with my dad's cumbersomely large video cam with a shoulder bag included. My grandfather was busy making his stuffed artichokes while my grandmother was stirring her crawfish etouffe. My dad asked my grandmother on video what we were eating for dinner, and she announced in the most colorful of New Orleans accents, "Crawfish Etouffe and Stuffed Awtichokes!" My Paw Paw (my grandfather) allowed my sister to sample an artichoke leaf. After my 8 year old sis properly ate the yummy bite, she and my Paw Paw raised their hands in an Italian hand gesture expressing their satisfaction of the
goodness of that artichoke along with sounds of "Mmmmmmm".


Stuffing an artichoke properly is somewhat of an art form and can be as extravagant or as simple as the artist chooses. I tend to carry on the traditions that my grandfather and father have taught me over the years, which I believe to be the very best and most delicious method. Not only were stuffed artichokes big in my family, but they are also a staple of Italian cuisine in New Orleans. You can find stuffed artichokes on many New Orleans menus at both traditional New Orleans restaurants and Italian restaurants. Living in Philadelphia, I don't think I have ever seen a stuffed artichoke on any menu and don't really know anyone who is familiar with eating this dish. My husband never even knew about such a thing until he met me, and now he is my number one fan of my stuffed artichokes. There is something special about making this dish with someone and sharing in the delightful outcome. When visiting my foodie/catering queen/cook sister-in-law in Seattle one spring, we visited Pike's Place Market, where we found a gorgeous selection of artichokes. She had never had or made a stuffed artichoke, so we decided to make an evening of it with plenty of wine. The artichoke was a success and a wonderful bonding experience with my sis-in-law. Although making this dish can be fairly simple and easy to do alone, I say make it an evening with someone special.


Since spring is the season for the best artichokes, I suggest planning your artichoke night in the near future to partake in the best of the crop. Look for weighty, large, green chokes with the leaves tight to the bulb. If the leaves are separating from the bulb and the artichoke is light, then it is likely not fresh. If you own a pressure cooker, then that is the best cooking vessel for the artichoke, however a large boiling pot will do just fine too. For my traditional stuffed artichoke, a variety of Italian cheeses are needed, as well as fresh lemon, garlic and bread crumbs. I like to use a mix of Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, and Mozzarella cheeses. You can use one or two of these or all of these. Don't feel like you can't go through with this recipe without every one of these cheeses. You can make a delicious stuffed artichoke with just a shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle Parmesan cheese. My first recipe below is my preferred traditional method and the second recipe will give you an idea of how easy it is to change up the recipe and make it your own.


Lizzy M.'s Traditional Stuffed "Awtichoke"

1 artichoke, was
hed and trimmed (1 artichoke can feed 2-3 people.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 whole lemon
2 garlic cloves, cut into large, thin slices
2-3 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, broken into small pieces
2-3 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, cut into small,
thin slices
2-3 oz. Provolone cheese, cut into small, thin slices
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella (You can also use a block of mozzarella cut into thin slices-whatever you have.)
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs


Directions:

1. Start by preparin
g the artichoke by cutting off the stem. Cut off the very end of the stem, which is usually brownish and throw out, but reserve the rest of the stem. Next, turn the choke on its side and hold with a good grip. With a sharp knife, cut off the top 1/4 inch of the choke. This will remove many of the sharp, pointy edges in the middle of the choke. After that, with kitchen scissors, starting at the bottom of the choke, trim off the remaining pointy tips of each artichoke leaf. Just cut off the sharp tip, leaving most of the leaf in tact for stuffing.


2. Once trimmed, place the choke under cool running water, while gently loosening the artichoke leaves by pulling them outward from the center. This will allow the water to clean the choke on the inside, also making the leaves easier to stuff. Alternatively, you can wash the choke by placing it upside down in a deep bowl, pot or clean sink of water. Move the choke up and down in the water, so the water can remove any dirt in the choke. Dry the choke and get ready to stuff! If you don't plan to stuff it immediately, then place in a bowl of water with lemon juice or a vitamin C tablet, so the artichoke won't turn brown.


3. On a large plate, place your choke to begin stuffing. First, drizzle a liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil into the center and all around the artichoke. Next, add a dash of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and Italian seasoning all over the choke. Finish this part by squeezing a large lemon wedge over the choke.


4. Now for stuffing. First, add a large slice of garlic clove down in the center of the choke. Disperse the rest of the garlic slices in random leaves throughout the choke. This will infuse a delicious garlic flavor. If you don't like or have whole garlic, then use about a teaspoon of garlic powder instead.


5. Starting with the hard cheeses (parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano), stuff the cheese slices all around the choke in as many leaves as possible. Next, add the provolone and mozzarella cheeses. Feel free to add as much or as little cheese as you like. The point is to provide an intense flavor combination from the variety of cheeses on as many leaves as possible.


6. Sprinkle the top of the stuffed artichoke with the bread crumbs, another squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil.


7. In a pressure cooker, fill with water without overflowing onto the basket and place the stuffed artichoke, used lemon wedges, and reserved stem into the pressure cooker basket. Close and lock the lid, and turn the burner to a high heat. Once you start to hear the steam whistling out of the cooker, then turn the heat to medium and allow to cook for 17 minutes. After 17 minutes, turn the heat off and let the cooker sit until the pressure of the steam has released. Most pressure cookers have a little button that is raised when the pressure is too high to open, and the button drops when it is safe to open the pressure cooker.


*If you not have a pressure cooker, then simply use a large boiling pot filled with about an inch or two of water. Cook your choke directly in the pot on medium heat for about 45 minutes. With this method, you will have to check often to make sure there is enough water in the pot. If there isn't, the choke will burn, so you need to add water as it cooks. If you have a steaming pot with a basket or one of those pasta pots with a colander basket, then use that with the same cooking time of 45 minutes. You can check to see if the choke is done, by trying to pull a leaf from the choke. If it separates easily, then it is done. If it is difficult to pull away, then cook for a bit more.

How to Eat...


1. Pull one leaf at a time to eat. Hold
ing the top of the leaf with your fingertips, use your teeth to scrape all of meaty artichoke goodness and stuffing from the leaf, then in a bowl throw out the tough remains of the leaf. Keep enjoying each cheesy, garlicky stuffed leaf until you get to the core of the choke, where the small, spiky leaves remain. At that point, pull out those leaves and put in the trash bowl.


2. You will then get to an almost fuzzy-like part, which is layered on top of the artichoke's heart. Sometimes, you can just pull this out with your fingertips until the heart is exposed. Other times, you may need a spoon or melon baller to gently spoon off that fuzzy layer.


3. Once the heart is cleaned, cut into quarters and let everyone enjoy, as this is the most flavor-packed part of the artichoke. You can also eat the stem, which tastes almost exactly like the heart. Have lots of napkins because this is a fun, messy and involved eating process, which can be best enjoyed with a glass or glasses of wine or over a nice long, family dinner.


Lizzy M.'s Herb-Garlic Onion Stuffed Artichoke


1 artichoke, w
ashed and trimmed (1 artichoke can feed 2-3 people.)
Extra virgin ol
ive oil
Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 of lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 small red onion, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs


Directions:

1. Follow steps #1-#3 in the
first recipe.


2. Mix the lemon zest, garlic, red onion, parsley, Parmesan and bread crumbs in a bowl with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


3. With a spoon, stuff as many leaves as possible with the zesty onion mixture.


4. Then, cook just as described in step #7 in my first recipe.



You can stuff anyth
ing into an artichoke. Try a Greek-style with feta cheese and Kalamata olives or a hearty treat with Gorgonzola or bleu cheese and bacon. You can also simply steam the artichoke in olive oil and lemon and prepare a dipping sauce. A hollandaise-style sauce or a pesto sauce would both make for fabulous condiments to a simply steamed choke. You are only limited by your imagination with what you can do with this season's bounty of artichokes. Enjoy them now while the best of the season is still available at your local markets.

1 comment:

  1. Just invite me over when you want to make this for me.

    ReplyDelete

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