My grandmother made the best stuffed artichokes. It’s a well-known fact. My mother tried for years to get her to share her secret. Gram always told her she’d tell her one day, but that day never came. Grandma Grace died without ever passing her recipe along. Since then, mom’s tried. I’ve tried. We both think we know what it was she did, but neither of us have ever been able to duplicate them. It’s not that our stuffed artichokes aren’t good. They’re just not Grandma’s.
My grandmother was never an amazing cook. Plain and simple was her style. That’s what her artichokes were too. (She did share with me once one of her secrets–Wonderbread. Yes. Wonderbread.) I’m good with flavors, at being able to pick out even the most subtle herb in any dish. Why couldn’t I figure out Gram’s simple recipe? With Thanksgiving coming up, I bought four artichokes to practice on. If I got it right, I would bring them to my brother’s for Turkey Day.
Mulling over past attempts, trying to devise a new strategy, I had an epiphany. At last and finally, I realized I was never going to be able to make Gram’s artichokes. Ever. She’s gone, and she took her secrets with her. I couldn’t duplicate her recipe, only replicate it to the best of my ability.
My best is pretty damn good. Honoring her tradition, I used the ingredients I know she used, but for the first time, I made them my way. I added things I knew would enhance what I’d tried in the past. They were amazing. Dare I say it? Even better than Gram’s. Yes. I dare. I think she would agree. Mine were over-the-top delicious. The only nit I had was that there was too much stuffing. Next time, I’ll stuff them less.
I don’t do measurements, I eyeball everything, but here’s my recipe.
Gracie’s Stuffed Artichokes, Terri-Style
Four large artichokes
1 sixteen inch semolina loaf (has to be semolina)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup grated romano cheese
1/3 c olive oil
garlic–lots of garlic (I used about a tablespoon and a half of minced, dried garlic. Gives it more of a kick than fresh.)
1 tsp salt (never skip the salt. It’s not like you make artichokes often)
1 c fresh baby kale*
1 c fresh watercress*
(*I threw these in because I had them in the house. It gave the artichokes a nice, earthy flavor. Arugula would have worked really well, too.)
32 oz container chicken stock
1 1/2 c white wine (not too dry, not too sweet)
2 tsp capers
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
Cut stems off the artichokes so that the bottoms are flat. Clip the tips (they’re sharp!) off the leaves. Wash thoroughly, opening up the artichoke nice and wide to make stuffing easier (see photo below.) Turn them upside down to dry while you assemble the stuffing.
Steaming liquid: Put the stock, wine, lemon and capers into a large stock pot. Bring it to a simmer while you assemble the rest. NEVER BOIL IT! Boiling kills the flavor of the wine and capers, and makes the lemon bitter.
Stuffing: Chunk up the semolina and put it in the food processor. You want it coarse, not fine. Toss it into a big bowl with the cheeses, eggs, olive oil, garlic, kale, watercress, and salt. Mix it well. I use my hands. It’s the best way to make sure it’s all incorporated. The stuffing will hold together if you press it into a ball. If it doesn’t, add a little olive oil until it does.
Stuff the artichokes between each of the larger, outer leaves. You should be able to get fairly close to the center before they get too small. Shove a good bit into the center. This is messy business. Do it on a cutting board to make re-gathering the stuffing that misses the artichoke easier. Don’t over-stuff it. Yummy as the stuffing is, it gets to be a bit much.
Carefully lower the artichokes into simmering liquid. The liquid will come about halfway up the artichokes. Cover and let simmer 45 minutes to an hour. When an inside leaf pulls away easily, they’re done. Remove artichokes from the liquid and set them onto a plate. There should be a good couple of cups of simmering liquid left. If there’s more, reduce it by simmering a little while longer. Remember–never boil! Take it from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the sauce back over the artichokes.
Eat them hot or cold, but warm is best.