We liked the look of Melissa Clark's recipe in the Times (get a link to it here). The fact that she removed the hairy choke beforehand was such a good idea. It gives you a hole in the middle for the stuffing, and lets you eat through the whole artichoke without having to stop and remove the choke before you can cut up the heart. We also loved the addition of carrots, which we think accentuate the artichoke's sweetness.
But Clark stuffs her artichokes raw, then cooks them for 1 1/2 hours in a bath of water, wine, and vegetables. We prefer our method of steaming the artichokes first, then stuffing them and baking them briefly. There are two reasons.
1. If we're putting our prepped artichokes directly into a pot of boiling water to cook, we see no need for rubbing them with lemon or putting them in water with lemon to keep the cut edges from browning. They're going to brown anyway when they cook, and the lemon business is a lot of work.
2. It is much easier to pull out the interior leaves and carve out the choke when the artichoke is soft. Much harder when it's raw. With our method, we can cook the artichoke, then take out the choke, then stuff it and put it in the oven.
We made a few other changes with the ingredients, cutting out the parmesan, which makes this recipe vegan, and using thyme and shallots.
We hope you'll try stuffing an artichoke. It's really not as hard as it sounds, and it's a great meal for one.
One note on ingredients: Use the best breadcrumbs you can. Ours came from the freezer, actually, but they were made from very good peasant bread.
1 medium globe artichoke
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium carrot, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
zest of 1/2 a small lemon
generous 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill a medium sauce pan 2/3 of the way full of water and bring to a boil.
Prepare the artichoke. Cut off the stem so that the artichoke will sit flat. Cut off the top 1 to 1 1/2 inch of the artichoke, then use kitchen shears to trim the spiky tops of the outer leaves. Put the artichoke in the boiling water and cover. If your artichokes are too big, and you can't put the lid on, place a heatproof bowl on top of them to weigh them down while they cook. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until you can pull away an outer leaf without too much resistance.
While the artichoke is cooking, prepare the stuffing. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrot and shallot. Season generously with salt and pepper; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Turn off the heat and add the thyme, zest, and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine. Taste and season again with salt and pepper.
When the artichoke is finished cooking, drain the water and run the artichoke under cold water until it's easy to handle. Put it upside-down on a kitchen towel to drain for a few minutes.
Turn the artichoke over and pull out the pale leaves in the very center, about a 1-inch diameter in the middle of the artichoke. Use a teaspoon or a measuring spoon to scoop out the choke, the hairy fibers inside the middle of the artichoke. Be careful not to scoop out too much of the heart, which is the soft, tasty solid just under the choke. Running your finger around the inside of the artichoke helps find stray choke fibers.
Place the artichoke in a baking dish (a loaf pan works well for holding one or two; a bundt pan is great for three or four). Spoon a tablespoon or two of stuffing into the hollow middle, then scatter the rest around the leaves, fluffing them out and making room for the stuffing to nestle in between them.
Bake the stuffed artichoke for 10 to 15 minutes, until the stuffing is warm and the artichoke is very soft. To eat, pull off the leaves and scrape them along your bottom teeth, picking up stuffing as you go. Once you eat all of the leaves, cut the heart into chunks and eat with remaining stuffing on the plate.
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)