My family has a bit of an obsession with artichokes.
When we were young, you could find them for 3 or 4 for a dollar when in season. During that time we would often have steamed artichokes multiple times a week. Back when I was on a budget, I would often make them a main course.
Many people shed the outer leaves and eat only the tender heart. While the heart is definitely the grand prize, eating your way towards it, leaf by leaf, is a delicious journey.
Stuffed artichokes are a popular dish among Italians, particularly around the holidays. There are many variations but most begin with the same trio of breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley. My grandfather, Joseph Martorana, added ham to his. I like to add anchovies.
My grandfather also liked to add escarole when cooking artichokes both stuffed and not. The escarole takes on the flavor of the artichokes as they all steam in one pot.
When I was in college, I wrote an essay about my grandfather and my fond memories of family holidays that I called "An Occasion for Artichokes" and whenever I eat them I think of him.
Joseph and Virginia Martorana
1 1/2 cups Italian Breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
1 can of flat anchovies, chopped OR 1/2 cup chopped ham or prosciutto (optional)
4 medium artichokes
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. The best way to do this is with your hands !
Next add your protein. If adding anchovies, add the oil it was packed in as well. If adding ham (or skipping the protein all together), I would add a few more tbsp of oil. The mixture should be moist but not wet.
Two types of stuffing
Now its time to prepare the artichokes.
If you've never trimmed an artichoke before, there are some great videos on YouTube you can watch but its pretty easy.
First, rip off the tiny, bottom-most leaves down by the stem. Next, with kitchen scissors, snip off the pointy tips of the remaining leaves (about 1/2 in). Cut off the stem and the top point of the artichoke about an inch down.
They should look like this.
(At this point, you could steam the artichokes and enjoy on their own)
Next, we prepare the artichokes for stuffing by carefully separating the leaves and pushing them out from the center. You want to have a cavity in the center and some space between the outer leaves. Using a spoon, scoop out the inner, "furry" choke.
Ready to stuff
Begin stuffing the artichokes. (This will be messy so do it over a plate or bowl).
Add stuffing to the center cavity and between the leaves by pushing down from the top.
Place in a large pot or dutch oven with 1 inch of water in the bottom.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil.
At this point, you could add some roughly chopped escarole or just skip this step.
Cook over medium-low heat for about an hour. You should be able to pull off a leaf with no effort.
Check the water level throughout and adjust if needed.
Serve alone or with a side of melted butter for dipping.
If you've never eaten an artichoke before learn how here http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cook_and_eat_an_artichoke/.