Stuffed Artichokes, a southern Italian classic
I can’t remember a family holiday in my house that didn’t include stuffed artichokes. I have since seen it widely served at fellow Italian friends’ homes, but I never see this in restaurants. I think it’s because although they are fairly simple to prepare, they are super messy to eat and maybe restaurant owners are trying to be considerate of their customers by not tempting them with the inevitable. You can’t eat one of these the right way and not wind up with a mess all over your face and hands. But believe me when I tell you, they are worth every crumb that could possibly land on your shirtfront.
The key to eating these is to attack the whole thing with reckless abandon. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks-just go to to town, peeling one leaf after another and scraping off the stuffing and meat of the artichoke with your teeth. As you work your way towards the inside and the leaves get softer, you can grab a bunch at a time and eat the whole bottom half of them. Just be careful that you do not eat the prickly nettles that stick out from the heart. Instead, take a spoon and scoop out the nettles, leaving the very bottom of the artichoke and the heart behind. This is, of course, the prize after all that work of eating the leaves. This is the absolute best thing in the world to eat!
Now making them is easy. Here’s what I do:
- 4 large artichokes (get them on sale, otherwise they’re crazy expensive!)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (if they are plain, add a handful of chopped parsley)
- 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 2 sliced garlic cloves
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup white wine
Take the chokes and cut off the bottom to level them off so they can stand up straight. Peel off any outer leaves that look really tough or that are just hanging off. Cut the tops of the artichokes so then are flat across.
In a separate bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic cloves and salt and pepper. Take the chokes and pry open the leaves away from the middle a little bit, just so you can start stuffing the crumb/cheese mixture in between the leaves. Do this until all four are sufficiently stuffed then places the chokes in a heavy bottomed sauce pot that goes up well over the height of the chokes and one that has a cover to it. Drizzle EVOO all over the tops of the chokes for added flavor and to keep the stuffing extra moist. Fill the pot with first the wine and then enough water to come up halfway up the sides of the chokes. Put on the stove and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook until soft, at least 45 minutes. It’s pretty hard to overcook these, but you do not want them to be dry so don’t undercook them and make sure it’s covered tightly.