My mother made artichokes for dinner at least once a year. She steamed them and then served them with a little ramekin of melted butter. Tearing off the leaves, dipping them in melted butter and then scrapping them across your teeth to get that tiny little bit of deliciousness. I’m not sure if it was the little bit of choke I loved or the melted butter, but I looked forward to them every year and knew they were a special treat.
I don’t think I knew that there was any other way to prepare, or eat, an artichoke until I went to my future in-laws for New Year’s Dinner. My soon to be mother-in-law asked if I liked artichokes and I know my eyes lit up. “Of course”, I said. Mark made some comment about how he thought they were a waste of time (so little food for so much work) but he said I had probably just endeared myself to his mother forever!
The next thing I knew, a huge platter of artichokes, covered in tomato sauce made it’s way to the table – along with platters of meatballs and sausage, parmesan-crusted chicken, cavatelli and sauce, pork and sauerkraut. I was being indoctrinated into a full Italian holiday dinner. As we stuffed ourselves, I tried my best to save room for that artichoke.
Finally, the platter was passed and as I carefully made the transition from platter to my plate I realized this was not like the artichokes I had growing up. Each leaf held a treasure – Italian meat stuffing.
I dug in…oh my! No butter needed here – the meat and sauce added all the flavor you needed and as I scrapped the leaf against my teeth I realized I had never tasted anything like this!
The following year I asked her to teach me to make them as I knew she didn’t have a recipe for them and didn’t want this tradition to die. My sister-in-law, niece and I worked with her and her sister and learned this long-standing Ali tradition.
I don’t know that Italian-Style stuffed artichokes were ever a “New Year’s Tradition” in his family or just something they always had around the holidays but in my mind, it will always be part of my New Year’s dinner.
Mark still thinks they are a waste of time but he knows that I will always enjoy them and I know my Father-in-law and brother-in-law will eat them as long as I keep making them. Making them always brings back wonderful memories of that first New Year’s Day with his family and spending time with his mom in learning how to make these.
I love special food memories – somehow they make the food taste that much better 🙂
Happy New Year – here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!
Italian-Style Stuffed Artichokes
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork or Italian sausage
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
6 fresh artichokes
- Mix beef, pork, onion, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs and egg together well.
- Trim artichokes. Cut stem close to the base so the artichoke will sit flat. Cut top portion (rough top) off – about 1/4 inch.
- Place in water with a little lemon juice so they don’t turn while you stuff the others.
- Gently pull leaves away from the core but keep attached to the artichoke. Stuff each leaf with 1/2 – 1 tsp. of the meat mixture. Repeat with all the others.
- Sit stuffed artichokes in a large saucepan (or 2) with 1 inch of chicken broth in the bottom.
- Place on stove and gently heat over medium-low heat and allow to cook until meat is done and artichokes are tender. (about 30 minutes)
Tip: Good Artichokes can be hard to find – if you find them well before the big day, you can make this recipe ahead and freeze them. Just gently reheat the on the stove with a little water in the bottom of the pan.
Happy New Year!