Baked Stuffed Artichokes

Baked Stuffed Artichokes
Jennifer Woods

Lately, in the In Season series, we've taken looks at what I take home from Crooked Sky Farms each week and see what I've done with my CSA share, or part share. This week, I'm using artichokes, lemons, garlic, and onions.

I first had baked stuffed artichokes at Maggiano's in Denver for my corporate job team dinner about 10 years ago. I didn't have an Italian grandmother who used to make this when I was a kid. I ate it at a big chain restaurant, and it was completely satisfying and eye-opening. I had no idea that garlicky bread crumbs could messily be stuffed in between the leaves and could taste as good than my boiled seasoned artichokes seved hot with with cold blue-label mayo dipping sauce. I just love artichokes. We used to share one or two as a family but I think one per person is a better serving size.

The farm I've worked for since 2006 has decided to dedicate a permanent spot for artichokes. How exciting is that? I like to think of it as my own personal secret garden. Though, it really shouldn't be kept secret. They should all get eaten. There are 3,000 plants each with dozens of artichokes to be harvested. Keep your eyes open at the farmers markets, or ask your friends who have room at home to grow these giant beauties. Artichoke plants are quite big.

We'll get two seasons from them each year, fall and spring, though spring is the best harvest. That's right now, people. I have started stockpiling them upon my visits to the farm and I've pulled out my pressure cooker from bottom of the cabinet so that I can have them 50 different ways and get completely drunk on them until they're all gone, about June.

It looks like it's not on the menu anymore at Maggiano's, I looked, so I have been left to try to figure it out on my own (if you used to work there or have the recipe, please drop me a note, I'd be forever grateful). This version, while not the same, is still very good, my son has even asked to have it again for his birthday. I don't have the heart to tell him they'll be out of season by then.

Baked Stuffed Artichokes

5 large, full-size artichokes 1 lemon, halved 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 onion, minced 5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 2 cups dried bread crumbs (I grabbed 4 slices of sandwich bread and turned it into bread crumbs in the food processor) 1 cup grated good parmesan 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 1⁄3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves 2 tsp. kosher salt 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

First, you need to prep and cook the artichokes. Cut off the bottom stem so that the artichoke can sit flat. This sort of hurts for me to do, since the stem is so good, too. But for this purpose, you need them to lay flat. Then with a super-sharp knife, and a sharp mind, cut off the top ¾ of an inch or so. This way you can easily stuff with the stuffing. Rub the cut artichoke with the lemon, or don't it'll turn brown when you cook it anyway.

You can steam or boil them in seasoned water. That takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your artichokes. I tried them in the pressure cooker last year and 20 minutes is a much more desirable cook time. I would hate to only make artichokes on weekends. If you choose pressure cooking, put a steamer basket in the bottom, fill to about 2 inches of water and throw in a bay leaf and the leftover lemon that you used to prep the artichokes. Once the pressure cooker is steaming, let it go about 20 minutes. They should be done by then. Just pull off a leaf from the middle and if it comes off easily, it's done.

While the artichokes cook, make the stuffing. Add a little olive oil to a pan and cook the onions until soft and then add the garlic until it smells great, just 30 seconds more. Add the cooked alliums to a bowl with the bread crumbs, ¾ cup of grated parmesan, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Taste it. You want this to be super garlicky and addicting. If it's not, add more vinegar or salt and pepper until it is.

Let the artichokes cool and drain a bit upside down. Then with a spoon, scoop out the center leaves and hairy choke that will absolutely make you choke. You don't want to eat that part. Rather than removing it come meal time, clean it up now. You'll thank yourself now. Just pay attention not to scoop out the heart, just the choke. You'll be able to tell once you get going.

So, you should have five hollowed out artichokes that are fully cooked and have just the bigger leaves attached.

Stuff the leaves and the centers of the artichokes with the stuffing and stick it under the broiler to heat back up and toast a bit in the oven, just a few minutes. Then before serving, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Don't bust your teeth trying to eat the artichokes through the screen, I know, it's hard.
Don't bust your teeth trying to eat the artichokes through the screen, I know, it's hard.
Jennifer Woods

We made it a meal by frying an egg and served on the side but I think it'd be even better cracked into the artichoke before getting stuffed and broiled. Wouldn't that be a great weeknight meal?

The picture on the right is the very reason you go through all the work: the artichoke heart.
The picture on the right is the very reason you go through all the work: the artichoke heart.
Jennifer Woods

Let me know your recipes for baked stuffed artichokes in the comments below. I'd love to hear how you make them.

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