Artichoke. Hey, everyone, let’s eat this giant thorn-like thistle! I can’t imagine who first figured how to cook and eat these things, but I’m glad they did. Stuffed artichokes are one of those things, comfort food and a luxury at once. Luxury because of the cost and the work involved. I haven’t made them in a long time, but yesterday I was inspired.
I know people have different ways of cooking them, and some stuff while others just dip the leaves. My favorite is pretty much the way I first encountered them, a little tweak of the stuffing. Trim the bottom stems, take off the toughest outer leaves at the base, trim the sharp points of of the leaves, and then cut off the top of the artichoke (about two inches straight across the top, through the layers). Apparently my knife really needs to be sharpened, because I couldn’t actually trim the tops until after part 1 of cooking them, which is steaming/boiling in a tall pot for about 20 minutes. Throw a bit of white wine, or lemon juice, or white or red wine vinegar in the boiling water before you add the chokes. Last night I used a champagne vinegar.
You have to let them cool a bit before moving on to the next step, I generally turn them upside down to make sure any water caught in the leaves drains out, helping them cool.
I make the stuffing mix while they’re steaming. Equal parts fresh bread crumbs and ground parmesan (a good one! yesterday I used some romano I had left and then parm), a handful of finely chopped walnuts, a few cloves minced garlic (at least one for each artichoke), snipped flat leaf (Italian) parsley and mint leaves, fresh ground pepper.
Now that your artichokes have cooled a bit, finish trimming any sharp points–last night this is when I chopped off more of the tops, use your hands to spread the leaves some, and remove the centermost leaves and the fuzzy part in the bottom center of each choke.
Beginning in the middle, start stuffing, pushing out as you go, so the mix spreads out, and gets through all the layers, a nice coating on each leaf. I overstuffed last night. Place each artichoke on each stem, standing straight up in a baking dish. Put an inch or two of water at the bottom of the dish/pan, I also squeeze half a lemon in the water. Drizzle a little olive oil over all.
Tent aluminum foil over the whole thing, so steam will be created and cook everything further as it bakes. In the oven at 375° for about 40 minutes.
Enjoy, one leaf at a time, scraping the stuffing and soft bottom of each leaf off with your teeth, leaving a “shell.”