Hi! Last Friday there were HUGE, COLLASSAL, GIGANTIC artichokes on sale at the market, 2 for $5. That might not sound terrific, but they were HUGE, COLLASSAL, and GIGANTIC! The problem was Ben, my husband, is not crazy about artichokes! However, he is crazy about sausage, especially Italian sausage, so I had an idea. I made stuffed artichokes and the filing was an Italian sausage mixture with cheese, tomato, and parsley. The filling is nothing complicated, but if you've never worked with fresh artichokes, they can be a challenge at first. This dish turned out to be so terrific though-- a perfect Sunday evening meal. One huge artichoke was a generous serving for one. Ben said it was the best artichoke he'd ever eaten.
This recipe takes some time, but it's very tasty and you learn a lot if you've never prepared artichokes before.
Sausage Stuffed Artichokes
2 large artichokes (mine were a little bigger than a softball)
3 bay leaves
2 T. salt
1/2lb bulk Italian sausage (hot or mild, I used mild)
1 c. grated mozzerella cheese
1/2 c. chopped Italian parsley
1 medium tomato, chopped
olive oil for drizzling
1. Get a pot large enough to fit the artichoke and fill with water. Add the lemon, bay leaves and salt and set on the stove to boil.
2. To prepare artichokes: Cut off the stem as close as you can to the base of the artichoke. Cut off about 2 inches off the top of the artichoke. Use kitchen shears to trim the points off all the other leaves.
3. Boil the artichokes about 45 minutes, or until a fork pierces up through the stem end very easily. While the artichokes are cooking, brown the sausage in a small pan. Drain any fat and add the parsley and tomato. Add about 1/2 c. water and allow to simmer while the artichokes cook.
4. There should be a little water left in the pan, but not much when you're ready to use it.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. When the artichokes are done, remove them from the water and let them cool until you can handle them. Set them upright and use your fingertips to pull out the center leaves (at least all the ones that have a purple cast to them). Then take a spoon and scrape the fuzzy choke off the aritchoke bottom. It should all pull away easily so that you can see what you should scrape off. Don't scrape away the solid artichoke bottom-- that's the best part. When you're done, you should have a hole about 2.5-3 inches across at the base of the artichoke.
7. Add the cheese to the filling. Spoon the most of the filling into the center of the artichokes, but then spread out the outer leaves and put some of the filling between the leaves here and there. It doesn't have to be a certain way.
8. Place the artichokes in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10 min. until the cheese is melted and the whole thing is warm. Serve one artichoke per person as a main dish.
9. To eat, pull off the leaves and eat the base of them with the sausage filling. Enjoy the yummy artichoke bottom with the filling.
I didn't serve anything else with this dish except beer!
Note: An important thing that makes cooking fun is being able to cook without having to follow a recipe. That way, when you see something in the market that looks good, you can be creative on the spot. As we go, I'll try to talk about some basic tips that might help you. One tip for now is that sausage and cheese is a versatile flavor combination that can be mixed in just about any way, in anything, and in about any proportion and it will be popular. If you see something at the store that looks good, you can think about preparing it by using sausage and cheese as a stuffing. Mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, chicken breasts-- all these are delicious with a sausage/cheese stuffing. The same mixture can be used over tortilla chips or on a pizza crust. The type of sausage and cheese can help determine the way you want to go with the dish-- Spanish, Italian, German, etc. So, already there are a bunch of dishes you can prepare by knowing about one good flavor combination.
I'll have a photo of this dish up soon!