Serves: Makes 4 to 8 servings
- 4 artichokes, trimmed (see below)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ⅔ cup plain dried bread crumbs
- ⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh marjoram or ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Procedures:This recipe makes a generous first course of one whole artichoke per person, if you have a simpler main course to follow. But I most often serve the artichokes in halves, for either a smaller first course or a side dish to any number of meat or pasta dishes. Be sure to serve the artichokes on a plate large enough to accommodate the discarded leaves, or have a bowl on the table for the leaves.
- Bring 3 to 4 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Set the artichokes upright on the steamer rack and set the rack above the water. Cover and steam for 40 to 45 minutes, until the base of an artichoke is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Be sure the water doesn't boil away; add more boiling water as needed. Set the artichokes aside to cool.
- While the artichokes are steaming, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour ¼ cup into a small dish and set aside. Add the garlic to the remaining butter in the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until tender and aromatic but not browned. Add the bread crumbs, cheese, olive oil, thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper and stir until well mixed. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pull out and discard the small leaves from the center of each artichoke, revealing the fuzzy choke. Scoop out the choke with a small spoon, being careful not to remove the tender artichoke bottom underneath. Gently spread out the leaves of each artichoke and spoon some of the bread crumb mixture down between the layers of leaves. Spoon the remaining stuffing in the center cavities.
- Set the artichokes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the reserved butter. Bake until heated through and the tips of the artichoke leaves begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to individual plates and serve.
- Trimming Artichokes: If you don’t cook artichokes often, it can be a little intimidating to tackle them, but they really are easy to prepare. It’s good to have a halved lemon on hand to rub over the cut surfaces as you go, to avoid discoloration. First, check to see how pronounced the thorns are at the ends of the leaves; some will be almost nonexistent, others worth your attention. If the latter, use kitchen shears to snip off the ends so neither you nor your guests are surprised by a prick from a thorn. To expose the choke and make it easier for removing later, I cut off the top 1½ inches or so of the artichoke (none of which is edible anyway). Because the leaves are rather tough, I find a serrated knife easiest for this task. Trim the stem of the artichoke to the base and you’re ready to proceed with cooking.