Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Amazing Artichoke Adventure...

Okay, brace yourself. I'm about to attempt a cooking post. Well, it's kind of a cooking post, but really more of a construction post. One of my family's favorite treats is stuffed artichokes. My dad's mom taught my mom how to make them, and I've been wanting to learn for years. So we scheduled an artichoke extravaganza recently and I took many, many pictures to commemorate this rite of family passage! This is basically artichokes stuffed with a cheesy, crabby, bread-crumby combo of goodness. Here goes:

We begin with...the artichoke. Mom usually tries to snap them up when they're on sale. We stuffed 10!

Spread some newspaper out to work on (makes clean-up easier) and take some scissors and carefully snip the pointy, thorny edges off of each so:

Isn't it pretty already? Okay, then you carefully cut off the stem (so it will sit upright) and cut off the very tip-top (where it's hard to individually snip the thorns).

Put them in a pot of boiling, salted water for 30 minutes, remove carefully, turning upside down to drain, then allow them to cool. (We boiled four at a time.)

While they are cooling, prepare the "stuffing." Here is the cast of characters:

And a pound of crab meat (Mom uses white backfin crab meat. And mom knows best!) Drain it and flake it with your hands, feeling for any random bits of shell.

Okay, this is where it gets a My mom is one of those cooks who instinctively knows when to add and when to stop. So these are approximate measurements which should make enough stuffing for 4-5 artichokes.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cans of bread crumbs...

1 1/2 cups shredded Romano cheese...(Mom substituted a combo of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheeses)

1 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with 2 tsp. garlic salt...

Add the crab...
Side note-this colander was a wedding gift to my parents from my dad's grandmother - almost 50 years ago!!!

Another side note...this is my mom's recipe box. I may hijack it!

Add a GENEROUS amount of olive oil. (Seriously, have plenty on hand). Glug it around, stir to combine until it looks about right.

Taste and see if the seasonings seem right. Then, just grab some and start stuffing it into each individual leaf. (FYI - any time you see beautifully manicured red fingernails - they belong to my gorgeous Mom. I've never known her NOT to have beautiful hands - and I've never known her to hesitate to use those beautiful hands to prepare wonderful food for her family!)

We worked on individual sheets of foil so that when we were done we could wrap it up for storing. Uh, for the record, there is a distinct possibility that, in my enthusiasm, I might have overstuffed this one:

Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the completed artichoke...(Mom's motto: If a little olive oil is good, a lot is better!)

Bring the foil up and around and wrap tightly! Ready for the freezer!

When you're ready to eat one, pull it out to thaw, then put it in a pan with about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom and bake at 350 degrees for an hour...(we decided to eat one right then, so it didn't take as long to cook!)

I meant to take a picture of it right out of the oven, but I, uh, got a little carried away. So here's how a half-eaten one looks...(I promise, it's delicious!)

For the uninitiated, you eat these by pulling off a stuffed leaf (starting at the bottom) then rake the stuffing and the soft flesh from the top of the leaf with your's what the pile of eaten leaves look like...

When you get down close to the center, it looks like this...

Pull the leafy part away from the base part and there is this little spiky, hairy center...

Carefully scrape the little spiky part off and you're left artichoke heart. I wonder who first thought it would be worth all the work to get to the heart? Anyway, mix up a little oil and vinegar (yes, more oil), chop up the heart, swirl it around and enjoy!

So after a couple of hours of fun in the kitchen, THIS is what I had to show for it!

This really isn't difficult and it is so, SO good. We'll have one as an appetizer (two if there's a crowd) and enjoy every bite! Don't be intimidated - you can do it!