Artichoke look intimidating. You have to wonder of it’s a self preservation tactic on their part. Perhaps they’re worried about the rise in vegetarian and vegan eating and have decided to fight back! They have pinchy spikes and tough outer leaves called bracts (even the name sounds harsh) and a fuzzy choke that guards the soft, meaty heart that holds all of the artichoke flavor. I can see why you might not be inclined to buy this vegetable, but like most things, if you break it down to it’s smallest components it’s pretty manageable. For many recipes you discard the majority of this vegetable anyway, working your way down to just the very inner leaves making this ingredient much easier to handle. For this recipe we will slice off the top portion of bracts (think of it as chopping off the top triangle) and then the stem so that the artichoke sits flat. At this point most of the pinchers should be removed but if not they will be once you carefully remove the toughest outer layer of leaves or bracts. Now that these cats have been declawed they are infinitely less intimidating. Just be sure to use a good knife!
- 2 large artichoke
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half or squashed
- 2 bay leaf
- 1/2 cups of oil
- 4 cups of water
- salt to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 cup grated cheese
- 1/4 cup of chopped parsley – about 10 stems worth (I save the stems to add to the juice for extra flavor)
- To prepare artichoke cut the tips of the artichoke leaves (bracts) off and discard then remove the stem and set aside and last remove the toughest outer leaves and discard
- Begin to pull the artichoke bracts back slightly to open the artichoke and then rinse it with water
- Set the artichokes aside by turning them upside down on a piece of paper towel to drain
- In a mixing bowl beat the eggs and then add in a pinch of salt, the bread crumbs, cheese and half of the parsley, mix well and set aside
- In a sauce pot (3-4 quart) just large enough to fit the two artichoke side by side add a pinch of salt, the olive oil, garlic, bay leaf, water, remaining chopped parsley and parsley stems if you saved them and heat on low
- To fill the artichokes, pull back the outer bracts and spoon in the egg mixture until you have filled all or almost all of the bracts working your way inside the artichokes
- Once the artichokes are stuffed, carefully place them inside the sauce pot so that they are almost entirely submerged in the liquid
- Increase the heat and bring the liquid to a boil
- In the meantime take the stems and chop off the tough bottom portion then with a paring knife peel the tough outer skin and add to the sauce pot for additional flavor – cut into bite size pieces if desired
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and taste for salt and add if needed then cover the pot
- Allow artichokes to cook this way for 40 minutes, periodically basting with the juice and tasting for salt (I add salt sparingly to start so I can layer it throughout the cooking process for a more even flavor and to avoid oversalting)
- Serve with bread and a generous spoon of the artichoke juice for dipping the bread
Where we live I don’t always find the freshest most tender artichoke so I have adjusted the cook time accordingly. If you are lucky enough to have really fresh artichoke available to you, reduce the cook time to about 30 minutes and test for tenderness by piercing the skin with a fork.
To eat, simply remove the bracts with your hands and pull through your teeth to remove the soft fleshy portion of the artichoke petal making sure to get enough of the stuffing too. When you get toward the bottom, remove the fuzzy portion called the choke and discard. The very bottom or base of the artichoke is the heart and it is delicious so enjoy!
The artichoke juice is very flavorful and great for dipping crusty Italian bread, but if you can refrain from drinking it all up, it is perfect over pasta and turns this dish into a hearty meal.