Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday's stuffed artichoke

Had you been raised in la famiglia di Signor Polpetta (you're smart, figure it out), this would be more than just the familiar sight of a classic Italian-American antipasto.

It would be a small but not unimportant slice of Home. Because Sunday supper, the best family time of all, rarely took place without the stuffed artichokes.

We did not eat ours at the beginning of the multi-course meal, however. For us the artichokes were for later on, after we had started to digest the pasta and the meatballs, the roasted chicken and the veal cutlets, often even after the pastries and the coffee and the finocchio crudo (raw fennel, but you knew that). More often than not, in fact, the artichokes were eaten well after we had left the table and moved on to other things.

They were their own separate thing, these stuffed artichokes, meant for picking at when the mood struck, and so everybody didn't eat them at the same time. They'd be had while on the sofa watching an afternoon ballgame, in the backyard playing cards, even sitting on the front stoop just before nightfall. There were plenty of Sundays where I didn't get around to eating my allotted 'choke until bedtime, standing in the kitchen or in front of the t.v. set or just gazing out the window to see what was happening on the street.

But I always got around to having one.

Stuffed artichokes aren't meant to be eaten hot from the oven, you know. And do not zap them in the microwave either. Room temperature is the way to go here. Make them, leave them out on the kitchen counter, and when the mood strikes go and have at it.

Trust me on this. I've had lots of practice.

Me and the stuffed stuff go way back.

Much as I love the stems, they must be cut from the bottoms so that the artichoke can sit flat in a pan. (I trim the stems and cook them along with the artichokes, then hope like hell that nobody else has their eye on them.)

This next step really does require a sharp knife, so please make sure to use one. Basically you're making a crosscut on the top so that you can get inside the artichoke to fill it with the stuffing.

This is what goes into the stuffing: breadcrumbs, cheese, pignoli (pine nuts), parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Once you mix them all together you must add olive oil, but only enough to lightly bind it, otherwise it will be too oily.

I guarantee that when you look at the amount of stuffing you've prepared it will seem like way too much for just a couple of large artichokes. Thing is, it takes patience to stuff them properly, and if you are patient you will use up the stuffing mix. One at a time peel back each layer of leaves and begin cramming the stuffing down along the leaves and all the way around, until you've completed all the layers. This is not the time to be delicate, okay. Raw artichokes are tough as nails, so don't worry about hurting them.

After they've been fully stuffed place the artichokes in a baking dish filled with about an inch of water, drizzle a little olive oil over them, cover with aluminum foil and toss into the oven preheated to 375 degrees F.

Artichokes are funny things, and I find cooking times will often vary wildly. The best thing to do is yank out a leaf after about an hour in the oven and see if it's cooked enough. These large artichokes were ready after 1 hour and 20 minutes in the oven. Then I left them out, still covered in the foil, until they cooled to room temperature. (Doing this allows the flesh to soften a little more too.)

And there you go, a properly stuffed artichoke for you and yours.

No Sunday supper should be without it.

Stuffed Artichokes
Makes 2 large artichokes or 4 small ones

1 cup good breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (loosely packed)
1/4 cup raw pignoli (pine nuts)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil (enough to lightly bind ingredients)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a bowl mix together all the ingredients.
Remove stems so that artichokes can lay flat in a pan, then make a crosscut at the artichoke tip to reveal its inner leaves.
Stuff the mixture into as many rows of inner leaves as you can, until all the filling is used up.
Place artichokes in a baking pan with an inch of water, drizzle just a touch of olive oil over each artichoke, cover with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. Pull out a leaf to test for doneness; more time may be required.
Remove pan from the oven and leave it loosely covered in foil until artichokes come to room temperature and serve.


Fred said...

I've eaten 'chokes six ways from Sunday (sorry to horn in on your theme), but these are works of art. Be sure to clue the people: you MUST enjoy these with RED wine.

Mister Meatball said...

High praise from the likes of you, Fred. Thanks.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

My mother-in-law introduced me to stuffed artichokes decades ago and they are a favorite here. I never thought of adding the pine nuts though. And I always cooked mine on the stove top, but I love the idea of doing them in the oven where the stuffing can get nice and crispy on the top. This is on my must-make-soon list.

Anonymous said...

I am crazy for the Artichoke now I gotta do this dish, oh, my pappa as the song goes, they look so yummy and not that hard to do..I will definitely try to do them and enjoy them, I will cook them along whatever I am doing, put them on the counter on a place with a mat for the heat and let them rest, wow whee, it is artichoke season at the market and I will get two huge ones and make this dish, oh, my Goodness, love onthe plate. Love your recipes for meatballs and sunday gravy, I got around to making it and it came out your blog, it is really authentic and you don't go on & on just the facts pleasantly! ciao!

Anonymous said...

How about a cardoon recipe.I have grown them successfully in Maine for several years now (along w/artichokes) Seeking your input as to how to prepare these beasts.

Mister Meatball said...

Cardoons? I grew them one year, before the blog. Messed around with simple braised, lightly fried, like that, but sorry to say I got no real recipes to pass along, not of my own anyway. They are beasts, though, for sure.

Claudia said...

I need this in my life. I know after having them the Meatball way - all will be smooth sailing for 2012.

Anonymous said...

When do you (or do you) remove the choke?

Mister Meatball said...

Just work your way through all the leaves until you get down to the heart and you're all set.

Gin said...

Believe it or not I used to make these back when. The stuffing may not have been as fancy as uours, but I did remove the choke.

Anonymous said...

Being raised by an Italian Mama(best cook) your recipe brings back memories. I was too busy in school and not smart enough to know that I had better learn all her wonderful recipes. Please add a "PRINT" icon so I always have your recipes at my fingertips.