My dad used to make stuffed artichokes every once in awhile for company when I lived at home. This is the only way I've ever eaten artichoke besides the jarred or canned hearts and I love it! I have not had it since the last time he made it (two Christamases ago) because I've always been afraid of artichokes!
One of the things that made me nervous was wondering how in the world do I choose one? Well, a little Googling can do wonders!
- Artichokes are available in the Spring - look during March through May for the best ones.
- Look for an artichoke without a lot of brown on the leaves.
- Hold the artichoke and it should be heavy for its size - this means it's still full of its juices.
- Fold back the bottom leaves and see if they are still crisp or have turned limp and rubbery.
- The top of the artichoke should be tightly formed.
- A fresh artichoke will "squeak" as it compresses when you squeeze it in your palm.
- Pull the bottom leaves off the artichoke and any outer ones that look worse for wear.
- Using kitchen shears, snip the prickly tips off the leaves along the side of the artichoke.
- Cut the top 1" off the top of the artichoke, exposing the inner leaves.
- Trim the stem to leave about 1 1/2" below the bottom of the artichoke.
- Rinse the artichoke under cold water, making sure to get in between the leaves.
Place the prepared artichokes in a big pot with squeezed segments of a lemon and a palmful of peppercorns. Once the water comes to a boil add about a teaspoon of salt and let boil for 20 minutes. (I used a lid slightly smaller than the pot to keep the artichokes submerged.) Once done, drain the water and allow the artichokes to sit upside down to drain and cool for about 15 minutes.
Once cool enough to handle use a small paring knife to remove the center leaves, which have a little purple on them. Then with a small spoon, scoop out the fuzzy "choke" until you can see the tender heart.
At this point your artichokes are fully cooked and ready to be eaten. Feel free to enjoy with melted butter or other dip.
However, if you're like me and want to stuff them you still have a little bit of work ahead of you!
My stuffing (enough for two artichokes) included:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
Separate the leaves of the artichoke so there is room for the stuffing. Starting at the outside leaves and working your way to the center, deposit a little bit of stuffing in each layer.
Place the artichokes in a covered baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and broil for the last 5 minutes to brown the stuffing, keeping a close eye on it.
Remove leaves starting at the outside and scrape the "meat" and stuffing with your teeth. Work your way to the center until you are left with the tender, flavorful heart - the best part of the artichoke!
Serve as is, or with melted butter for dipping. Also make sure to place a discard bowl at the table for the leaves!