Submitted By: Deborah Tomasetti Perham
“What’s an Artichoke?!”
While attending the Association of Personal Historians conference in November 2013, participants were called upon to share “food stories.” Well, I was first up. I recalled my husband and my first holiday together at my in-law’s home. My mother-in-law asked everyone to bring a dish. Well, big shot that I am, I showed up with a special recipe from the best cook I knew…Gaetana Parrini Tomasetti (my paternal grandmother). (Keep in mind, I’m an Italian girl married to an Irishman.) I carefully and proudly prepared Grandma’s stuffed artichokes. I presented my dish at my in-law’s house, and it was received with…blank stares. The silence seemed eternal. Finally, my youngest brother-in-law (one of seven), with shock in his voice, inquired: “What’s that?” “What’s that??! It’s stuffed artichokes!” “What’s an artichoke?” What’s an artichoke?? WHAT’S AN ARTICHOKE??! It’s a staple in every Italian household.
I looked over at my perfectly stuffed artichokes. Sitting on the table next to them was pot roast where lamb should be, mashed potatoes where lasagna would normally be, pearl onions where I would typically see stuffed mushrooms. Something called mashed turnips. What’s an artichoke? WHAT’S A TURNIP?! Well, no one ate my stuffed artichokes that day (except me). But in all honesty, I didn’t eat ANY turnips. Although I will confess, just last Thanksgiving (2012) I *tasted* them. Keep in mind our first holiday together was 32 years ago, so it took me some time to get used to the idea of a turnip. (I still haven’t tried the creamed pearl onions.) That’s okay. My in-laws still haven’t ever tasted a stuffed artichoke.
I’ll leave you with my paternal grandmother’s stuffed artichoke recipe. Remember it’s all about the food…chow. Till next time…ciao!
Gaetana Parrini Tomasetti’s recipe from “the old country”
- 4 medium-large size artichokes
- ½-¾ c. seasoned bread crumbs
- 4 tbsp. good, sharp Parmesan cheese
- 2 heaping tsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- Olive oil
- Trim artichokes by cutting straight across the top of the artichokes (about an inch down) and cutting off the stems on the bottom.
- Using scissors, trim the pointy tips off each petal.
- Combine seasoned bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, and garlic in a bowl. Moisten the breading with olive oil (this is key to keeping the breading moist).
- For each artichoke, loosen the petals by spreading them apart from the center, so it looks a flower. Fill in each petal with a little of the bread crumb mixture, pushing down into each petal. Don’t pack it too tightly. (Lighter is better.)
- Place the artichokes (stems down) sides touching each other, in a pot that fits them snugly so they don’t tip over.
- Fill the pot with an inch or two of water (up to the top of the lowest bottom leaf). Pour some olive oil into the water NOT ON the choke. Squeeze some lemon juice into the water also (this keeps the chokes from browning). Put a slice of lemon on top of each artichoke.
- Cover with a lid, tilted so steam can be released. Steam the artichokes over medium heat for 1 hour until the petals can be pulled from the center of the choke without too much effort. Keep an eye out to make sure water remains in the pot. If it dries up, add more water.
- Enjoy the stuffed artichoke pulling out a petal at a time. Holding from the cut end, scrape the breading (with your teeth) along with the tender part of the petal. Discard the rest of petal of course, but keep the heart (the best part, in my opinion).
- If you’d like to eat the heart of the choke, after devouring the stuffed artichoke, clean out and discard the needles from the heart, sprinkle a little salt on the heart. Yum!