May 07, 2011

Italian Stuffed Artichokes

Years ago my MIL used to make these. I had never heard of them before that. I tasted them at her house and fell in love, they are my favorite. So whenever she made them she would save me one.

I remember being in our first apt. and being quite pregnant. My  hubby came home from her house one day and she sent one home with him. I thought that was so nice of her. But I knew I had to learn how to make them one day. I never grew up eating artichokes so I didn't have a clue. So I told her to call me the next time she makes them, I wanted to learn. And here it is.

When I say small artichokes I do not mean the baby ones. I think they would just be too much work for this. I mean the smallest ones you can find of a normal size choke. The reason I say this is, once stuffed, this is huge. So it you want it to look pretty, smaller would be better. However if you don't care, then buy the large ones and cut them in half to serve.

Stuffed Artichokes with Tomato Sauce Serves 4

4 small artichokes or 2 med or larger
1 large lemon
A couple of garlic clove, don't have to peel them
A tsp or two of whole peppercorns and 1 tsp. salt
A couple springs of thyme, lemon thyme could be used too
2 sprigs rosemary
1lb. ground beef
1/2c. grated Romano Cheese
2 garlic cloves
1 Tb. chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
1/2c. bread crumbs, plain or seasoned
Salt and Pepper
1 jar of Classico Tomato and Basil sauce or equivalent in homemade sauce or
canned tomato sauce with basil added.

 In a large pot, put lemons, cut up and juice squeezed into a pot filled about 3/4 with water. (all the lemon goes in, I squeeze for juice to quickly make sure chokes don't get brown.) Throw in a few cloves garlic, these don't have to be peeled or anything. I used about 4 or 5 but I love garlic. Toss in S & P and herbs. Bring to a boil while cleaning chokes. 

One cleaned and one not trimmed yet so you can see what to do.

Cut tips off the leaves, cut off stem, remove any really small or bad looking leaves. Cut across top about a half in. to cut off most of the tips. Theses tips and the ones on the leaves all must be cut because they have a thorn on them. Artichokes are members of the Thistle family. Once you do that, toss them into the water.

Let them cook until a fork stuck into the stem part goes in fairly easy. You do not want to overcook them or they will fall apart before you can stuff them.

When tender and fork goes in, remove choke from water with tongs. Hold upside down over water to drain it and then put upside down on paper toweling to cool.  Shake them well in this position too because the peppercorns can get stuck in there and are a pain when your eating it later on. 

In the meantime make the meat stuffing. I use this to also make my meatballs, so you could make a bunch, stuff these and then fry or bake up the rest for meatballs for sauce. I often do this then just freeze the meatballs. Saves me time later on.

Mix meat mixture together. Take an artichoke and turn it right side up. At this point if your feeling confident or adventurous, you could spread open the leaves and remove the hairy part of the choke so you don't have to deal with it later. I don't tho, too lazy and in a hurry most times lol.

Begin to stuff the artichoke by spreading leaves apart and putting a bit of the meat mixture on most of them. You don't have to do them all but you do want to do most, after all this is a dinner, not a snack. Then I stuff the middles, mounding it on the top. If you cleaned the fuzzy choke out you could stuff it over that with meat.

Take another large pot, such as a dutch oven and put a cup of water on the bottom, top with the stuffed artichokes, squishing them in if necessary. Pour the sauce over the top. Heat on high heat till all is bubbling, then lower and cover with a lid. These may burn on the bottoms if the heat is too high so watch it. Cook until the meat in the center is done, maybe 45min. to an hr. Depends on your heat.

These can be served just as they are, they are quite hearty. Top with more grated cheese.This is quite saucy and you want that. You dip the leaves into it before you eat each one.  Or you could make some pasta for the sauce or even rice. Or just serve it with a nice crusty bread. When stuffed if you used too large of a choke, cut in half then to serve. I often do that.

Remember artichokes are finger food so expect to get messy hands, have napkins on hand. To eat, you pull off a leaf and scrape the top part off with your teeth. In this way you get the artichoke meat, the stuffing and the sauce all in one. I often have fork on hand anyway to eat what falls off or when I use pasta. 


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