Artichokes, 101

You know you’ve done something right when a group devoted to cooking and eating enthusiastically embraces one of your creations.

I posted a photo of a single stuffed artichoke I made using my grandmother’s very simple recipe on Wooster Square Cooks and the response was overwhelming, at least as far as my posts go. People love artichokes, especially stuffed the old-fashioned way with breadcrumbs in the center cavity. My grandmother used to spoon breadcrumbs in the individual leaves too, but I don’t because I find the breadcrumbs get too mushy. Besides, the dish is filling and rich enough without adding more breadcrumbs to the mix.

What surprised me is that so many people love artichokes, but had never made stuffed artichokes because they don’t know how. I was happy to share my recipe because they’re easy to make and so satisfying, particularly at this time of the year. I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe written down, but I watched her prepare them so often in her Brooklyn, N.Y., kitchen to know it by heart. The secret was her breadcrumb mix – the same recipe, I believe, that she used to stuff clams and lobsters on Christmas Eve and for stuffed mushrooms.

She favored good quality plain breadcrumbs, not Italian seasoned. She’d dump them in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and a good shake of garlic powder (not garlic salt). A shake or two of dried parsley. From there, she would drizzle in good olive oil and stir, stopping when it reached the consistency of damp sand. Combined, but not saturated. If she added too much oil, more breadcrumbs would go in the bowl until she had the desired consistency.

Some people commented that they used fresh garlic and parmesan cheese in their stuffing, but I don’t. I want to taste the artichoke without being overwhelmed by other flavors. Fresh garlic seems overpowering, but to each his or her own. I’d never dare argue with another cook, particularly an Italian American one.

Like a lot of old-time cooks, I don’t remember my grandmother ever using a measuring cup or spoon, cookbook or recipe card. She was a fantastic cook, but did everything by memory or feel. That’s just how she rolled. So when a few people on Wooster Square Cooks wanted the recipe, I had to think long and hard, particularly about the breadcrumb mixture. It didn’t help that I’d had my 2nd Covid 19 shot earlier in the day, or that I had a few glasses of wine to celebrate.

For my Wooster Square Cooks post, I didn’t have enough breadcrumbs so I crushed up a bag of croutons. My grandmother wouldn’t like that, but in a pinch it will do. The most difficult part of the recipe is making sure that you have enough water in the pot. You’ve got to check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t boil down too much, adding water as needed. Some people said they baked theirs in a Dutch Oven, but I prefer the stovetop so I can keep an eye on them.

I think it’s important to share recipes – can you believe some people guard them with their life? Not what cooking is all about, at least for me. So when a few friends asked for a simple recipe for Easter Brunch, I offered them my mother-in-law’s holiday standard Eggs for Brunch. She got the recipe from her daughter, Sarah, and included it a fundraising cookbook. Here’s it is, in case you’re still trying to figure out what to make for Sunday:

Start by cutting off the stem of the artichoke so it will sit flat in the pan. Next, snip off the sharp tips of each artichoke leaf with a pair of kitchen scissors or a knife (scissors work best). Remove any outer leaves that are withered or don’t look appetizing.
Wash the artichokes, separating the leaves with your fingers, shake off excess water and drain on paper towels to dry.
Use your fingers to spread out the artichoke leaves to open the center cavity. Be gentle, or you’ll end up ripping it apart.
After stuffing generously, place artichokes in a pan containing about three inches of water. Don’t crowd the artichokes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, immediately reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook for an hour, until leaves are tender. The breadcrumbs will steam, becoming moist and a bit darker during the cooking process. Serve with melted butter, if you want.

Here’s the complete recipe:

GRANDMA ROSE’S STUFFED ARTICHOKES (SERVES 4)

4 large artichokes, outer or any dry leaves removed

About 2 cups of breadcrumbs. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, flatten some croutons in a plastic bag.

About 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil

Garlic powder

Dried parsley

Salt and pepper

Method:

Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichoke. Snip off the end of each leaf with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Cut off the stem and top of the artichoke with a knife. I usually remove about ½ an inch from the top. Gently spread the leaves of the artichoke apart with your fingers, taking care not to break off any leaves. Rinse under cold water, shaking to remove excess water. Blot the top of the artichoke face down on paper towels to remove remaining water.

In a small mixing bowl, combine breadcrumbs with olive oil, mixing in enough oil to create the consistency of damp sand – combined, but not saturated. Add in a shake of garlic powder, salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of dried parsley.

Open the top of the artichoke and spoon the breadcrumbs into the center cavity. If you want, you can spoon breadcrumbs into the individual leaves. I find that the breadcrumbs sometimes become too soggy in the leaves, but it’s all a matter of personal taste. Once stuffed, drizzle a little olive oil on top for good measure.

Place artichokes in a covered pot with about three inches of water with a dash of salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Check the artichokes periodically to see if more water is needed. Cook for one hour, letting the artichokes rest in the water for about five minutes.

Serve with melted butter.

This is a meal in itself, very filling. Serve with a side salad and dinner is served.

6 thoughts on “Artichokes, 101

  1. Sounds wonderful. I will have to share this with Peggy! Looks like you are trying new things and sharing family recipes since you joined this cooking group? Have fun and Happy Easter!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love artichokes, just bought some today. We stuff ours similarly to yours. Sometimes just dip the leaves in olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, or butter in any combination that strikes me. Peel, dip, and eat. A great treat no matter how you do it.

    Liked by 1 person

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