I don’t prepare artichokes very often, because they are usually too expensive for what will be left after you clean them. This is what I commented when Jo of Frascati Cooking That’s Amore recently blogged about a recipe from Lombardia for oven-roasted artichokes with parmigiano, breadcrumbs, and mint. Lo and behold, just a few days later artichokes were on sale. And so I decided to try the recipe after all. In Dutch we say “someone who has been warned is worth twice as much”, and so I took Jo’s warning to heart that the artichokes may turn out woody if you don’t clean them “unsparingly” or if you don’t blanch them for long enough. And they turned out great! As usual with Italian recipes, with only a few ingredients this yields something wonderful. Thank you, Jo!
For 4 servings as an appetizer
6 large artichokes
2 Tbsp minced fresh mint, plus more for garnish
80 grams (3 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
50 grams (2 oz) dry breadcrumbs
60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
(lemon juice to prevent discoloring)
The main point about cleaning artichokes is that you should not be hesitant to be ruthless when cleaning them, as you have to remove all of the woody bits. They won’t soften if you cook them, so you just have to resign yourself to having a lot of waste. Start by cutting off the tip of the artichokes, about 2 cm (1 inch) from the top.
Then peel away all of the tough leaves. Keep going until you get to the tender leaves.
With a paring knife, trim away the remaining part of those leaves.
Leave as much of the stem as possible, but do cut away the very end. You can see a tender light-colored inside and a thick woody darker-colored outside.
All of woody outside has to go, so remove it with a pairing knife.
This photo shows how little will be left of the artichoke once you are finished.
Put the artichokes in a pot or bowl of water with lemon juice to prevent discoloring while you clean the others.
Once you have cleaned all of the artichokes, put them in a pot with clean water and a bit of salt. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and gently boil the artichokes until they are tender, but not falling apart. You can check this with a fork; it should be easy to pierce them. This will take 20 to 25 minutes. Baking the artichokes afterwards will hardly make them any more tender, so they should be tender from just the boiling stage.
Plunge the artichokes into (ice) cold water to stop the cooking.
Drain them. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
In a bowl, combine 50 grams breadcrumbs, 80 grams freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, 60 ml extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons minced mint, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
Stir or knead with your hands until the mixture comes together.
Cut the artichokes into halves. Remove any tough inner leaves or ‘hay’ that you will find inside. Then fill with the breadcrumb mixture. Reserve some of that mixture for the stems.
Chop the stems into pieces.
Lightly brush a wide oven proof dish with olive oil and arrange the artichokes in a single layer, filled side up. Crumble the remaining breadcrumb mixture on top of the stems.
Bake at 180C/350F until golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with some more mint.
Artichokes are notoriously difficult to pair with wine, as they often ‘kill’ the wine. I’ve had good results with sparkling wines, like this Crémant de Loire. Like cava and other crémants, it is made using the same method as Champagne, but the climate is better and the prices are lower than for real Champagne. Quadrille is made using four grapes: chenin blanc, cabernet franc, chardonnay, and pinot noir, and it has been aged on the lees after the second fermentation in the bottle for 8 years. This gives this sparkling wine great complexity and body.