It's artichoke season and I know a lot of people don't know what to do with them. These thorny little devils contain succulent insides and it's just a matter of trimming away all the inedible parts. Once you get the hang of it, trimming an artichoke goes very quickly. Don't believe me? Observe from a master in Campo di Fiori in Rome:
That took under 60 seconds. I still can't trim an artichoke like that and you don't have to either. I will show you, however, an easy way that gets rid of most of the inedible parts and gives you easy access to the heart of the artichoke, the best part. If you are able to buy artichokes with some of the stems still on, don't slice these off - the stems are some of the best eating of the artichoke, very much like the heart.
My mom and I used to just boil artichokes whole and we didn't bother with any trimming at all. We liked to eat the leaves and just discarded anything that wasn't edible as we were eating. In this method, however, you remove the thorny and tough parts of the leaves and then slice the artichokes in half for two reasons - it makes the choke easier to remove and it gives you a cavity to place the stuffing.
You can use any stuffing mixture you want. I like leeks, but you can substitute regular onions. You can add pancetta, pine nuts, herbs, anything you like. But please use fresh bread crumbs. Make your own. Don't purchase dry bread crumbs from the grocery store. I make mine with leftover bread and just remove the crusts and place it in my food processor and grind away. I keep the bread crumbs in a plastic container in the refrigerator. They are far superior to anything you can buy.
Baked Stuffed Artichokes with Leeks
for a printable recipe, click here
serves 4 (or 8 as an appetizer)
- 4 artichokes
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 3 leeks
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup chicken broth
To trim the artichokes:
Remove most of the smaller leaves, starting at the bottom of the artichoke, by just snapping them off. With scissors, trim the tips off any of the larger leaves. The very top leaves won't matter, because you will be cutting these off. Slice off the very tip of the stem. With a small sharp paring knife, trim the stem of the artichoke by starting at the bottom of the stem and trimming toward the top of the artichoke - you are removing the tough dark green outer part of the stem. (below)
With the sharp small paring knife, clean up the bottom of the artichoke by removing any of the dark parts of the leaves that you snapped off. Just slide your knife around the bottom of the artichoke, like you were peeling an apple, and remove all those bits. With a very sharp larger knife, cut off about the top third of the whole artichoke. Place artichoke on cutting board, stem up, and slice right down the stem, cutting the artichoke in half. Rub the cut lemon all over the artichoke, to prevent browning. With your small knife, insert point right under the choke and run knife all the way under the choke and lift out, following the arc of the heart. The choke is the hairy part right under the purple inner leaves. Do not cut into or remove the heart, which lies right under the hairy choke and on top of the stem. Lift out all the hairy choke and inner leaves. (below)
Moisten with lemon all the cut, exposed parts of the artichokes. Set artichokes in a large baking or roasting dish. (I used a paella pan). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
This is what you want - a cleaned artichoke, ready for stuffing:
Pour chicken broth into the bottom of the baking pan with the artichokes. You are going to bake the artichokes without the stuffing for the first 40 minutes. The broth will keep the artichokes moist. Cover with foil tightly and bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare stuffing:
Clean leeks by cutting off root tip and slicing off the dark green end, leaving some lighter green. Slice leeks in half, lengthwise, and wash, if they are dirty. Slice thinly into half rings. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in skillet. Add leeks and cook, not allowing them to brown, for a few minutes until they are soft. Add garlic and saute for two minutes. Season with some salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add chopped parsley, bread crumbs and cheese and stir. Transfer to a bowl.
Remove artichokes from oven. Uncover and stuff each artichoke with some of the stuffing mixture, place foil on top of pan again tightly, bake for another 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes until stuffing is a little golden brown and the tip of a small knife can be inserted into the heart of the artichoke, right above the stem, and meets with no resistance. If, at any point you see that all the broth has cooked off, just add a little water into the bottom of the pan.
Serve artichokes hot or at room temperature.
More artichoke recipes: