italian stuffed artichokes
If you’ve never made or eaten artichokes before, you might be a bit befuddled as to what to do with them, how to prepare them — or even which parts are edible. In that respect, artichokes are a novelty vegetable.
Tough, spiky petals protect the goods inside. And you’d never know how delicate the heart and stem can be if you didn’t get past this flower’s armored exterior.
But there’s really nothing to it. For this version, I start by scraping the outer skin from the stem with a vegetable peeler, then using kitchen sheers to cut the spiky point from each of the petals. Trim the top third of the vegetable with a really sharp knife. (Be careful).
Split the artichoke in half, vertically and use a sturdy spoon to remove the hairy choke and the purple interior. There. The hard work is done. After that, just steam them until they’re tender. The time can vary by artichoke. Sometimes they’re ready in as little as 25 minutes, others take longer.
You can tell when they’re done if you can easily pull a petal from the stem. Just to be sure, I scrape the meat off the bottom third of the petal with my teeth — cook’s prerogative. It should be tender — if not, give it more time in the sauna. Dry the veg with paper towels and sprinkle with a little olive oil.
I like this Italian-inspired breadcrumb topping. It makes the dish feel more substantial and refined — but it’s also very simple to make. Whiz a few slices of bread in the mini-prep, add grated parmesan, crispy diced pancetta, capers, lemon zest and leftover oil from frying the Italian bacon. Toss well to thoroughly combine, fill the cavities of the artichokes liberally with the stuffing and brown it under the broiler.
Mom made artichokes when I was a kid. Not often, but often enough that I knew what to expect. Scott on the other hand, didn’t. He just stared at the platter with a quizzical look on his face that urged, “you first.”
So I went first and showed him how to tug the petals free from the flower and scrape the fleshy meat from the soft tender part at the bottom. After devouring the petals, we started in on the heart and tender part of the stem. Umm-nom-nom!!!
The breadcrumb topping added depth and bulk to the artichoke without being heavy. Scott liked the bright hit of lemon and capers too — which added layers of flavor without being overpowering. Good eats. Scott had 2 halves.
italian stuffed artichokes
- 2 large artichokes
- 1 lemon zested and cut in half
- 2 slices white or wheat bread
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1/4 cup finely diced pancetta
- 2 cloves garlic lightly smashed
- 1 tablespoon chopped capers
In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until browned and fragrant. Scoop out the pancetta with a spoon, reserving the oil, and place it on a paper towel to drain. Add the garlic cloves to the hot oil and cook over medium heat until browned and fragrant. Discard the garlic and reserve the oil.
Tear the bread into chunks and place in a mini-prep food processor. Pulse several times until you have fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Place a steamer basket in a large pot and add 2-3 cups of water to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, prep the artichokes: Remove any small leaves on the stem. Peel the stem of the artichokes using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Trim the stem keeping about an inch or two on the artichoke. Discard the remnants.
With a sharp knife cut off the top third of the artichoke and discard. Using a pair of kitchen sheers, work around the perimeter of the artichoke, trimming the top third of each of the the spiky petals. Slice the artichoke in half lengthwise. Use a spoon (even a sturdy measuring spoon will work) to remove the hairy choke and purple interior. Rub or squeeze lemon juice from over the interior of the artichoke to prevent browning. Continue with the remaining artichoke halves.
When the water is boiling, place the artichokes, cut side down onto the steaming tray and steam them for 25-40 minutes, depending on your artichoke. Check doneness by how easily one of the petals can be pulled from the bottom of the vegetable. When artichokes are cooked, remove them from the heat and carefully transfer them to a cutting board with a pair of tongs. Pat the artichokes dry with paper towels.
Spray a baking dish with vegetable spray and lay the artichoke halves, cut side up, in the dish. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Preheat the broiler.
In a medium bowl combine the fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, pancetta, capers, reserved oil from the skillet and lemon zest. Toss until thoroughly combined.
Carefully fill the artichoke cavity with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the artichokes under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the filling is golden brown. Serve.