Saturday, May 5, 2018


At the bottom of the prickly leaves and fuzzy choke is the delicious heart.

Artichokes are complicated. Structurally, they’re complex. Taste-wise, too, artichokes have a unique blend of sweet, bitter, earthy, tannic, floral, creamy.  They are a pain to prep because so much of the vegetable is inedible.  But, they’re worth the trouble!

Last year in artichoke season, I wrote about artichokes, simplified—just cook ‘em and eat ‘em, no fuss with trimming, dipping in lemon water (see the link below). But this year I’ve decided to revert to a recipe as complicated as the vegetable—stuffing those delectable little hearts. Here we go.

Trimmed down to the bottoms, artichokes are stuffed with meat and braised until tender.

Spanish artichokes (alcachofas and also alcauciles) are generally a small variety, even when completely mature. They are very different from the enormous ones I found in markets in France and Turkey, where the trimmed hearts were fist-sized. With small artichokes, in order to make a hollow for stuffing, it’s necessary to leave a rim of the leaves, which, with slow cooking, become tender enough to eat.

Serve the stuffed artichokes and their sauce as a starter, one or two per person. Sprigs of fresh mint are a traditional garnish for artichokes.

Artichoke heart and remaining rim of leaves are simmered until tender. The sauce is made with the cooking liquid.

Meat-Stuffed Artichokes
Alcachofas Rellenas con Carne

The recipe makes enough stuffing for eight large or 12 small artichokes. If there is extra meat mixture, shape it into small balls and add them to the pan to cook with the artichokes. Serve the artichokes and sauce, one or two per person, as a starter. Or, serve them on a bed of rice with three or four per person as a main course.

As the artichokes are trimmed and hollowed, drop them into a bowl of water with lemon juice to prevent their oxidation (darkening when exposed to air).

Dipping the tops of the stuffed artichokes into beaten egg and frying them briefly creates a crust that prevents the filling from being dislodged while cooking.

Choose a pan in which the stuffed artichokes will fit snugly in a single layer. You want to keep them upright, so tuck the stems and chunks of carrots and onions around them. Add enough hot water to almost cover them. The cooking liquid, pureed, becomes the sauce for the artichokes.

Serves 4-8.

12 ounces ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cumin
1 large egg, beaten
8-12 artichokes (about 2 ½ pounds)
Sliced lemon
Cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, cut in chunks
½ onion, cut in wedges
1 bay leaf
Hot water
Sprigs of mint to serve

Place the ground beef in a bowl. Add the garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and cumin. Separate 1 ½ tablespoons of the beaten egg and place it in a shallow bowl. Add remaining egg to the ground meat. Mix well. Allow the meat to stand while prepping the artichokes.

Slice off stems and reserve them. Peeled of their outer, fibrous layer, they are the same tender and meaty flesh as the artichoke hearts.

The artichoke dismantled. Snap off outer leaves. Cut off the top about a third above the base.

Use a melon-ball cutter to scoop out the choke, leaving a hollow for the stuffing.

Fuzzy bits are the inedible "choke." Use the melon-ball cutter to ream out some of the inner leaves, making an opening big enough for the stuffing.

As each artichoke is prepared, drop it into a bowl of cold water to which slices of lemon have been added. Squeeze one of the slices into the water. Peel outer fibrous layer from the stems and drop them into the lemon water.

When ready to cook the artichokes, drain them. Roll small balls of the meat mixture and press them into hollows of the artichokes, mounding the tops smoothly.

Stuffed with meat, the artichoke bottoms are ready to be cooked.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Dip the artichokes, filled side down, one by one, into the reserved beaten egg. Fry them, dipped side down until golden. Remove.

Place artichokes in a single layer and brace them with chunks of carrot and onion.

Place the stuffed artichokes in a pan in a single layer. Tuck the stems, chunks of carrot and wedges of onion between them to keep them upright. Add the bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of oil and hot water to ¾ depth of the artichokes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook gently until artichokes are very tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove artichokes and stems to a serving dish. Discard bay leaf. Puree the carrots and onions in a blender with the remaining liquid. Serve the sauce with the artichokes. Serve hot or room temperature.

Instructions for preparing artichokes, simplified:
More artichoke recipes:

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