Let’s talk about artichokes.
Many of you do not fully comprehend artichokes, and that’s understandable. They’re vegetables with fifteen asterisks, and they look like tiny sleeping Audrey IIs. Hell, even I don’t fully comprehend them.
Nevertheless, in my family, no Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve dinner is complete without at least two dozen artichokes. Stuffed with flavorful goodies, what begins as an army of organic maces ends as a salty, tender side dish.
The artichoke sponges up whatever surrounds it, so if you throw enough cheese, garlic and oil at the thing, it’s bound to taste good.
Let’s walk through this…
You will need:
– Bread crumbs
– Vegetable broth (or beef or chicken, whatever)
– Fresh parsley
– Garlic cloves
– Grated parmesan cheese
– Olive oil
– Salt and pepper
You’ll note that this is a vegetarian recipe, so long as you use vegetable broth. If you want to go full-vegan, you don’t really need the cheese, and you’d just have to keep an eye on the breadcrumb ingredients.
(I only mention this because it’s the first time that one of my ingredient lists didn’t start with MEAT in size 24px bold.)
Rinse the artichokes, and cut off the tops and the bottoms.
The bottoms are easy — you’re basically just cutting off the stem.
The tops are a little trickier. You want to cut enough so that the bulk of the artichoke petals are level, and that no minority bunch of artichoke petals stands taller than the rest. I don’t know, just look at the photo and do what I did there.
You’ll also want to use scissors to trim the ends off of any larger petals that weren’t already beheaded by that hot knife action. In particular, make sure you snip any petals that have visibly thorny ends. (Again, consult the photos.)
Use your fingers to fan out the artichoke. Get those petals all nice and open and ready for bread crumbs. At this point, the artichoke will still have plenty of give, so go ahead and put some muscle into this. You may lose a petal or two, but only a petal or two.
Get your fillers in order.
I can’t tell you how much of each item is needed, because there’s no exact science involved with cooking artichokes. Really, the only thing you’ll need a lot of are the bread crumbs.
Snip the parsley into tiny pieces.
Slice the garlic cloves into little slivers of pathetic garlic remains.
Mix a bit of black pepper into a bowl of salt, and then immediately regret it, because my God does it look like lice.
Stuff the artichokes.
The only part that takes work is the garlic. You want to slide all of those garlic slivers into various secret spots, which will later let you play that time-tested holiday dinner game, Will This Bite of Artichoke Have a Lucky Sliver of Garlic? (I admit that this game may be regional.)
With everything else, you just kinda dump it over the artichokes and use your finger as a plunger. This is mostly about the bread crumbs, but be generous with the salt and cheese, too. Ask yourself, “Could this strange cactus thing actually be hurt by too much salt and cheese?” No, of course it couldn’t.
Stick the parsley bits wherever you want. Doesn’t really matter.
When you’re done stuffing them, drizzle some olive oil on top. Enough to make it look like a cat pissed there, but no so much as to imply a dog.
Another tricky part. Read carefully, now!
Put the artichokes in a pot. The tighter the fit, the better.
Next, fill the pot with vegetable broth until the broth level is just about halfway up the artichoke. Pour slowly! It’s imperative that the artichokes stay upright and don’t move much when you cook them, so be generous with the broth, but not so generous that the artichokes are encouraged to swim.
(Note: Artichokes are more commonly prepared with simple salted water. You can do that if you don’t have broth or if you’d prefer a less sodium-stacked artichoke, but the broth does add a lot of flavor. If you wanna split the difference, go with equal portions broth and water.)
Bring to a slow simmer, and then cover the pot. The artichokes will need at least 30 minutes in there, and even more if you’re making a whole bunch of them. Go play Cookie Jam, or maybe draw me a picture of bats fighting over a pack of Combos.
You’ll know they’re done when you can easily pull the petals off.
The finished artichoke should be warm, damp and filled with wonders. The bread crumbs, cheese and other fillers should’ve merged into nice little chunks of soaking wet saltiness. The clouds should’ve parted.
Through cooking, most of the petals will have bloated into soft, meaty, edible masses. I’d liken their flavor to the midpoint between asparagus and green beans, but with a texture more akin to stale tapenade. Naturally, the core flavor is dulled under the weight of so much cheese and so many bread crumbs. You can think of this whole mess as a half-healthy version of the blooming onion.
Now, you don’t actually eat the petals. Not the wholes of them, anyway. What you do is grab one individual petal and kind of scrape it between your teeth, pulling the soft “petal meat” off, but leaving the too-fibrous husk behind. I know that’s hard to envision, so I drew you a picture:
1. Artichoke petal goes in mouth, rough-side up with the softest end first.
2. Bite down on the petal, and then slowly pull it out of your mouth, using your teeth to keep the good parts inside of you. (For extra fun, imagine yourself as a baleen whale.)
3. Toss the petal away, for it has served its purpose.
When you’re finished, you should have a whole plate’s worth of used artichoke petals. (Some people, like possibly me, like to then chew the used petals as a sort of secondary snack and mock tobacco. Tell no one.)
They’re delicious, guys. I’m not a big vegetable guy by any stretch, but this feels more like eating pasta in an alien restaurant. So good. You’ll love ’em.
Oh yeah, and you can eat the artichoke heart, too. (You’ll just have to go through 40,000 petals to get to it.) The heart, which should be as soft as cake from sitting in the broth, is considered by many to be the best part. It’s that puck-shaped thing at the bottom of the artichoke.
As mentioned, we always make these for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. There are usually enough artichokes for everyone who wants one to take one, but since they’re so freakin’ huge, splitting them in half works fine, too.
The nice thing is, even half an artichoke takes four hours to finish eating. This is the perfect side dish for people who tend to eat quick and then have to sit there miserable, waiting for everyone else to finish. You won’t like artichokes better than most of the things on the table, but goddamn, you sure do get a bang for your buck.