More artichoke recipes

October 23, 2008

I feel terrible.

Because I have been completely neglecting this blog while tending to my other, “Mama to the Drama” (http://jamiestamm.wordpress.com/).

And for good reason. The last time I checked the stats for “Dining In” (back in early August), it was getting about four hits per day.

But all of a sudden, the number of people viewing this site has increased tenfold.

The reason?

Well, according to the blog stats, more and more people are searching for artichoke recipes and being led here.

And that makes us incredibly happy. Because we LOVE artichokes. In fact, I don’t know anyone who cooks with artichokes on a more consistent basis than we do.

So today, for those of you who may have found your way to our site via an artichoke search, we have a special treat – five recipes made with our favorite edible thistle. Enjoy 🙂

Because Jerry – the main cook in our family – oftentimes works late hours, it’s not unusual for it to be after 7 p.m. before we get started on dinner. Which means if we ate lunch around noon, our tummies are already rumbling.

So we’ve become big fans of tapenades, which make easy, light appetizers as we work to get dinner on the table.

A tapenade is simply a spread for bread – typically made with olives as the main ingredient, but here we’ve chosen to use artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes instead. This tapenade is wonderfully tangy, with its combination of artichokes and balsamic vinegar, and the sun-dried tomatoes add just a touch of sweetness.

The flavors here are perfect piled atop a thin slice of toasted sourdough bread. We buy ours already sliced from the bakery of our favorite grocery store, but if yours comes in a whole loaf, slice it to approximately ¼- to ½-inch thick.

Artichoke tapenade

3 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

½ cup olive oil

1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into thin slices and toasted

Add the garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until the garlic is well minced. Add the artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, thyme and balsamic vinegar and process until the ingredients are well-incorporated. Drizzle in the olive oil and continue processing until the tapenade reaches your desired consistency.

Serve atop slices of toasted sourdough bread.

Another of our favorite appetizers (or meals, if you eat it by yourself) is an artichoke stuffed with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce.

It’s not the easiest recipe to prepare. You need to be careful while spreading the artichoke’s leaves, making enough room to add the stuffing while keeping the leaves connected to the base, as well as exercising caution as you scoop out the choke, the mass of inedible, immature florets at the center of the artichoke.

But in the end, when you take your first bite of this Italian delight, we assure you that all the time and effort you’ve invested will have been well worth it.

Stuffed artichokes

1 large artichoke

6 to 8 cloves garlic, smashed

2 lemons, cut in half

Salt

Pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup diced onion

1 cup marinara sauce

1 ½ tablespoons fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or ½ tablespoon dried)

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup bread crumbs

Pull off the small bottom leaves around the stem of the artichoke, and cut the stem flush with the bottom of the artichoke so that it will sit flat. Rub lemon immediately over the freshly-cut area to prevent oxidizing (turning brown). Cut the top ¼ of the artichoke off and discard leaf tops, again rubbing lemon over the freshly-cut area.

Place the artichoke (upright) and garlic in a large stockpot with a lid. Squeeze the lemon halves over the artichoke and then add them to the pot. Fill the pot with water until the artichoke is nearly covered. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and continue boiling, covered, for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until the onion is soft, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the marinara sauce, parsley, oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the artichoke from the water and allow it to rest until it is cool enough to handle. Beginning at the outside of the artichoke and working toward the center, gently press down on the outer leaves to spread them out slightly (they should remain “connected” to the artichoke). Then, using a spoon, scrape out the inner leaves and the choke and discard.

Place the artichoke in a Dutch oven and spoon the stuffing into the center cavity, as well as in between the leaves. Pour 1 inch of water or chicken stock in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

For us, there are several keys to a good homemade side dish. First, it has to be easy – not necessarily quick, but easy. We’d like it to be a starch of sorts (Jamie is very particular about having a meat, starch and vegetable at every meal), and if we can incorporate a vegetable into it, too, well that’s great.

And, of course, a side dish with cheese is good, as well.

Perhaps our favorite side dish is risotto because it can meet all of these requirements and, well, it’s just flat out delicious. This spinach and artichoke risotto, which is reminiscent of one of our favorite appetizers – spinach and artichoke dip, is a creamy, cheesy side dish with a touch of tang from the artichoke hearts.

Spinach and artichoke risotto

3 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups arborio rice

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup whole milk

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 14-ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted, drained and chopped

½ tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock.

Heat another medium saucepan over medium, then add the olive oil and rice, stirring continuously for approximately 1 minute to coat the rice with the oil. Add the salt and pepper and stir, then add 1 ½ cups of the chicken stock. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Add an additional ½ cup of chicken stock, and allow it to nearly all absorb. Repeat this process until the rice is soft, yet still al dente, which will take approximately 25 minutes (you should use nearly all of the stock).

Add the milk, artichokes, spinach, lemon juice and thyme. Stir, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

We try to use fresh produce whenever possible, but canned artichoke hearts have become a staple in our kitchen.

Artichoke hearts typically come packed in oil or water (which we prefer because sometimes the oil alters the flavor of the heart) and, straight from the jar or can, they make a great addition to salads, pizza or sandwiches.

We also use them often in our cooking. Two of our favorite dishes to make at home are artichoke-and-prosciutto stuffed chicken breasts with Parmesan cheese sauce (we discovered the delightful combination of artichokes and prosciutto as a pizza topping – the tangy flavor of the artichokes matches well with the saltiness of the prosciutto) and steamed artichokes, an incredibly simple side dish that will wow your dinner guests.

Artichoke-and-prosciutto stuffed chicken with Parmesan cream sauce

1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice, divided

1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

Salt

Pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon parsley

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

6 slices prosciutto

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

¼ cup diced shallots

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine artichokes, ½ tablespoon lemon juice, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, a pinch each of salt and pepper, thyme and parsley until well incorporated.

Using a sharp knife, cut each chicken breast in half (see note). Place a slice of prosciutto on each side of one chicken breast, then add 1/3 of the artichoke stuffing. Secure with toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.

Place the chicken breasts in an ungreased glass baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour until there are no clumps remaining. Add the shallots, stirring constantly, for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and the remaining ½ tablespoon lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and cook, stirring frequently, until the cheese in melted and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve each chicken breast topped with the Parmesan cream sauce.

Note: An easy way to halve a chicken breast: Hold your knife parallel to your cutting board and, placing a hand on top of the chicken breast to keep it steady, cut slowly until almost all the way through. You should end up with one large, flat piece of chicken.

Steamed artichokes

1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

4 to 5 cloves of garlic, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried Italian spices

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place artichokes in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil, approximately 2 feet in length. Add garlic, olive oil and butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Italian spices, then add the lemon juice. Mix well by hand, then position the mixture in the center of the foil.

Fold the foil lengthwise from the bottom to top, then fold in the left and right sides to form a secure rectangular packet. Cut a small hole in the top of the packet to allow some steam to escape.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Chicken croquettes

October 22, 2008

Sometimes Jamie hungers for home – literally.

While her parents and siblings live here in North Carolina, the rest of Jamie’s family resides in southeastern Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised. Although she is quite taken with Southern foods, from barbecue and grits to collard greens and sweet tea, on occasion she misses hoagies, true Philadelphia cheesesteaks and her grandmother’s Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast cakes.

Lately, she’s been craving her Aunt Jayne’s chicken croquettes, which were the best she’d ever tasted, but since we’ve already made our trip north for the year, she figured it would be a while until she had them again.

Lucky for Jamie, Jerry loves a challenge, so he set out to recreate Aunt Jayne’s recipe, with his own twists of course, including the addition of a mushroom sauce (Aunt Jayne serves her croquettes with a chicken gravy, but the mushroom sauce is actually a perfect match). The resulting recipe is relatively easy, though labor intensive. But Jamie assures you it’s well worth it. In fact, she now says these are the best chicken croquettes she’s ever tasted (sorry, Aunt Jayne).

While this recipe starts from scratch, it also is a great way to use leftover chicken. If you choose that option, start with the bechamel sauce, and go from there.


Chicken croquettes

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Chicken stock (or canned chicken broth)

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.

Season both sides of each chicken breast with onion and garlic powders, cayenne, salt, pepper and thyme. Lightly brown the chicken in the olive oil, approximately 3 minutes per side. Add chicken stock until the chicken is just covered. Bring stock to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool in the broth until the chicken is cool enough to handle. (If desired, put the pan in the refrigerator or freezer to speed up this process.)

Bechamel sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon minced shallots

½ cup finely chopped red onion

Salt

Pepper

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously for approximately 1 minute to form a roux. Add the shallots, red onion and a pinch each of the salt and pepper. Cook the shallots and onion in the roux for approximately three minutes, stirring to coat. Add the chicken stock and cream, and allow the sauce to thicken. When the sauce begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

To assemble croquettes:

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Vegetable oil

1 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups bread crumbs

Remove chicken from stock (see note). Chop the chicken into small pieces and add to the saute pan with the cooled bechamel sauce. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cool mixture in refrigerator (one hour) or freezer (20 to 30 minutes).

Heat vegetable oil in a deep fryer set to 350 degrees. Place flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs in separate small bowls.

Remove chicken mixture from the refrigerator or freezer, and form into balls approximately 2 inches in diameter. Dredge each croquette in flour, then beaten eggs, then bread crumbs. Fry the croquettes in vegetable oil until golden brown, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.

Serve topped with mushroom sauce (recipe follows). We recommend mashed potatoes as a side.

Note: Reserve chicken stock for use in the mushroom sauce, if desired.

Mushroom sauce

3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3 cups sliced button mushrooms

Salt

Pepper

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ½ tablespoons flour

1 cup heavy cream

In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and saute for approximately 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add the chicken stock. Cook until stock reduces by half, approximately 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk continuously for approximately 1 minute to form a roux. Remove from heat.

When stock has reduced, add the roux to the saute pan, along with the heavy cream. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 5 minutes to allow sauce to thicken.