Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Tradition

It is our family tradition to have stuffed artichokes for Easter. We are Italian, but I really have no clue if this is a real tradition from Italy, or one of those Italian-American things we made up along the way (like anything a la vodka). I actually really don't care, I will make them every Easter the Earth runs out of artichokes or I die (this is my pledge). 

As you likely know, every Italian family on Earth makes their own version of each dish, so this is how my family makes stuffed artichokes. 

Step 1: Get the most gorgeous artichokes you can find. I found these at our Hannaford for $1.19ea (that's a great price for chokes this big)

Step 2: Cut about 1 - 1 1/2 inches off the top of the artichoke using a sharp knife and then use kitchen shears to trip the tops off each of the remaining leaves. Be sure to rub all of the cut sections with lemon so that they don't brown to quickly (I forgot to do a few in the back of the photo).

Step 3: Neither my mom or my grandma do this (but they have never had pressure cookers). I pre-cook all of the artichokes to get them to open up so that you can stuff the leaves more easily. I follow the pressure cooker instructions, which has me cook them for 10 minutes. 

 (Going into the pressure cooker)
 (Coming out of the pressure cooker)

Step 4:  Rub each leaf with extra virgin olive oil and while you do this, be sure to pull the leaves apart and really separate them so that they can be stuffed more easily. 

Step 5: Make your stuffing! This is kind of a "wing it" situation. I can't tell you how much to make in total, it really depends on how many chokes you have and how gargantuan they are. For example, I had to make three batches of stuffing while making these artichokes, they were SO HUGE! I am lucky we have so much cheese in the house or else I would have been running out to the store for sure.

It is comprised of:
1) equal parts grated Italian cheese blend (I used asiago, parmigiano reggiano, and pecorino romano) 
2) and Italian blend bread crumbs (I use Cora brand)
3) 1/4 c or more of dried parsley 
4) 1/4 garlic powder
5) 1 tbsp freshly group black pepper
6) NO SALT (there is more than enough in the cheese) 

Mix all of those ingredients together:

And then add copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil so that the stuffing resembles more of a coarse meal and sticks together a bit. At this point I usually taste the stuffing to see if it is sufficiently garlicky. It usually is. I doctor it up until it tastes so good that I start eating it by the spoonful:

Step 6: Stuff that baby! The size of the artichoke leaves determines what size spoon you will use. For these chokes, I used a small spoon (about the size of a iced teaspoon (no, not a teaspoon) and then a teaspoon. It is much easier to use a small spoon and just add two spoonfuls than it is to use a spoon too big. To fill the chokes you take a spoonful of stuffing and literally stuff each and every leave of this baby until you cannot pull it apart anymore.

 (This was the first one of the batch that I stuffed, and I was a little shy with the stuffing; I was trying to ration)

Step 7: Preheat your oven to 350. Take the stuffed chokes and put them in a oven safe container with about 1 1/2 inches of water in the pan (enough water to just touch the top of the first set of stuffed leaves). Drizzle olive oil over the top of the chokes. Bring the chokes and water to a boil, cover with a lid (or foil), and bake in the oven for 2 hours or until the leaves are tender.

You can tell that the leaves are done when an OUTER leaf pulls off easily (the outside leaves are the toughest) and when you scrape the stuffing off the leaf, the meat of the leaf comes off without a problem. The stuffing should also be a nice golden brown.

Step 8: MANGIA! This is not the type of food to eat daintily. Sit down with a stuffed artichoke and a big glass of your favorite red wine, and dig right in. We usually serve these as appetizers and they are meant to be shared.

My mom and I cooked up 6 of these babies to bring to my in-laws for Easter, and only 4 actually made it out the door only 4 made it into their house, we picked at them along the way. I may smell like a hot garlicky mess for a week, but nothing else matters when a stuffed artichoke is put in front of your face. 

I hope you enjoy the recipe, it has given us much happiness at our Easter table (if there are still some left by the time dinner rolls around).

Happy Easter!


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