There is nothing like a week-long stay in a hotel to make me crave a home cooked meal. It must include some vegetables, something I'm sure I didn't get enough of this week, and I've decided to tackle the artichoke. I must confess that I have never cooked an artichoke before. I use canned artichokes regularly, but I have found them daunting in the past. I've passed by them in markets for many springs now and have never attempted them.
I do remember my Mother producing a splendid "artichoke tree" during a Thanksgiving celebration with a lovely lemon-butter dipping sauce. I'm don't remember exactly how the tree came to be, but let's just say there was a tower of artichokes and they were steamed to perfection. I recall pulling each succulent leaf from the fibrous core and scraping it clean between my teeth.
For my first attempt, I did decide to steam them, but instead of the lemon butter, I baked them with a mixture of bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, butter and parsley.
They were just as juicy and delicious as I remember them. Try them as a nice starter to a roast dinner. They go particularly nice with pork for some reason. A crisp white wine is also a perfect partner.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
Makes 4 artichokes
1 cup of dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 tsp lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
Firstly, prepare the artichokes. Using kitchen shears, cut 1 inch off the top of each artichoke and snip off the sharp tips of the leaves. Wash them and remove any loose outer leaves. Brush the cut edges of the leaves with a little lemon juice.
Put enough lightly salted water in a large sauce pan to cover the bottom, and place a steamer inside. Bring the water to a boil and steam the artichokes for about 20 - 30 minutes until tender. PLEASE watch your pan and continue to top up the boiling water from a hot kettle if possible. I seriously almost burn my pan out because of regular distractions.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.
Combine the bread crumbs, butter, lemon zest, garlic, parsley and parmesan. Season with a little salt and pepper.
When the artichokes are steamed and tender, wrap each of them in some aluminum foil and top them with the bread crumb mixture before sealing shut.
Bake for 10 minutes closed and open the foil for another 5 until the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them before serving.
Serve immediately and let your guests pick each leaf out, scraping off all of the stuffing along with the tender leaves.