~ Flowering Artichokes ~

Just over a year ago, our family lost its matriarch.  As my Mom got older, I was constantly pestering her about how she made this or that. Especially the cherished recipes that took me back to benchmark points of my youth; triggering the fondest of memories. I knew, naturally, that she wouldn’t be around forever and there were certain dishes and traditions I wanted to retain in order to pass them along to my children.  In fact,  that’s one of the reasons I began this website;  to have a living, breathing collection of my favorite recipes for family and friends. Well, whether it was laziness, procrastination, or simple complacency, I never got the recipe for Mom’s stuffed artichokes. 

However, over the years when we had casually talked about it,  she would dismiss them with a wave of the hand and the following suggestion:  “Oh, you just just stuff them with breadcrumbs and then steam them on the stove. But I use chicken stock, not water.”   
That’s all I had.  And so armed with that wisdom, this past weekend when I found nice looking artichokes at the market, the die was cast.


Mom’s Stuffed Artichokes

4 artichokes
2 Cups Seasoned Panko or Italian Bread Crumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano Cheese
2 handfuls fresh Italian parsley, diced
32 oz. Chicken Stock 
1 tablespoon Black pepper or to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
This dish takes some time up front, but once they’re ready to be put on the stove top, they essentially cook themselves.  

~ These are the artichokes before Step 1 below.  Not that the stems are still on and they have not been trimmed or rinsed ~

Step 1:   Remove the stems and discard so that the artichoke sits flat in your roasting pan.  With a serrated knife, cut about 1/2″ off the top of the artichoke and with kitchen shears snip the tips of the leaves. The outer leaves are pointy, like a little thorn and while they will soften after cooking and be edible, it’s easier to stuff them without getting pricked.   Rinse under cold water.

~ These are the artichokes after preparing.  Note the leaves are now “squared off” and the stems have been removed. The top has been cut and the inside exposed.  If you want to do this step in advance, you can.  Rub the top of the choke with half a lemon to prevent the choke from browning. I didn’t do that this time ~

Step 2:  Making the stuffing.  Combine all the dry ingredients and the parsley in a mixing bowl.  Since the breadcrumbs and cheese contain salt, you’ll notice this recipe calls for none.  Mix the ingredients well and drizzle in extra virgin olive oil until you develop a fairly moist consistency. It will seem like you’re using a lot of oil, but if the crumbs don’t bind together, the dish will be a failure. 

~ Here is the stuffing.  I’ve included this photo to hopefully illustrate just how “wet” the stuffing should be prior to filling the artichokes ~

Step 3:   Gently pull the leaves of the artichokes a little bit.  Some people advise pressing the artichoke upside down in order to open the leaves, but I don’t like to do that.  The leaves are gentle and if you abuse them too much, when they’re cooked, the artichoke will fall apart.  
Working over your stuffing bowl, push the breadcrumb mixture down into the leaves. Spin the artichoke as you go filling all the leaves. There is no “right” or “wrong” way here – just fill them as best you can but don’t be bashful.   Set the artichoke into your pan and top the center with more breadcrumbs.  

~ So here are the stuffed artichokes in the pan ready to be steamed.  There are variations here. You can add more grated Pecorino to the top now, or wait until serving.  You can drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top.  You can top with toasted Pignoli nuts.  This time, I did neither ~

Step 4:  Add the chicken stock to the pan.  You should have enough stock so that it’s about 2″ deep and covers about 25% of the bottom of the artichokes.  Put the pan on the stove uncovered and bring to a boil.  Once the stock boils, turn the heat down to medium low,  cover and simmer for 45-55 minutes, until the outer leaves easily pull off the artichoke when tested. 

~ These are the finished artichokes before plating.  Serve as an antipasto, and drizzle some olive oil and the steaming liquid over the top of each artichoke. Garnish with Pecorino Romano cheese.  You can see in this picture how the outer leaves have “flopped”.  They pull free easily, to test done-ness. These took about 45 minutes ~

How to Eat:   It occurred to me that it may be wise to include this!  Simply pull the leaves off one by one and pull them between your teeth so that you eat the breadcrumbs and the thin edible part of the leaves that will come off in your mouth. Discard the leaves as you go.  As you get closer to the center, the leaves will contain less stuffing,  but will be so tender that you can eat the entire leaf.  

Once you get down to the artichoke heart, you have to scrape off the inedible “prickly fur”  that covers the heart.  This is easily done with a spoon or knife.  Then eat the entire heart.  
 
~ This is the heart that sits under all the leaves, covered by the “fur” which you do not want to eat ~

The short video below will show you how to clean the artichoke heart!  

These are delicious, and very easy to do, though as Mom used to say  “they’re good, but they’re so damn messy to eat!”   Mom was right on both counts… and it’s worth the effort a few times per year!  
Salute e grazie Mama! 
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