About a month ago, I was surfing the ‘net, looking for cool Dutch oven sites and I revisited cooking-outdoors.com. I found this recipe: http://www.cooking-outdoors.com/dutch-oven-stuffed-artichokes-recipe.html for stuffed artichokes.
Instantly, my thoughts and memories went back to my childhood, when my mother steamed some artichoke heads and served them for dinner. We were quite used to strange and new things appearing on our plates, and most of it was good so we tried it. Dad showed us how to pull out the leaves, dip them in the butter sauce, and scrape the tasty, pasty meat off the leaf with our teeth.
I can still remember that as one of our many fun dinners. It was so different, it became not just a good meal, that was good for us, it became an event the family would remember for many years to come. At least, I would!
And as soon as I saw this and watched his video, I knew I had to try it.
…And, of course, I can’t just follow the recipe. I have to try things a little differently! Some of the things I did today were improvised on the moment. I’ll try to recreate them as a recipe, but remember that the amounts are only guesses at best. When you cook them, I encourage you to improvise as well. After all, cooking is like a good jazz tune, right?
Dutch Oven Stuffed Artichoke on Rice
12” Dutch oven
Many, many (24+) coals below
8” Dutch oven
Many, many (12+) coals below
1 medium onion, diced fine
3 celery stalks, diced fine
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 lb mild italian sausage
liberal shakes of dried parsley
1-1 1/2 cups fine, dried bread crumbs
About 4 cups water
4 fresh artichoke heads
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup commercially prepared salsa
Chili Powder (add gradually, go light at first)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
3 cups rice
Remainder of the Stuffing
The first thing I did was to get my 12” regular Dutch oven heating on a lot of coals, with about a tablespoon or two of olive oil in it. It was a very breezy March day, so I knew I was going to go through a lot of coals, and I would have to watch it close and manage the heat very carefully.
Once the oil was shimmery, I dropped in the aromatic veggies. They simmered right away, and I cooked them until they started coloring brown a bit. Then I put in the sausage. When browning the sausage, I took great pains to work the meat so that it ended up cooking in very fine, small chunks. Big globs would be difficult to stuff into the leaves. At this point, I also added in the herbs and seasonings.
It will look like you’re making too much filling to put in the artichokes. That’s OK. Not only do they hold more that you think, but you’ll use the remainder later.
When the sausage was done, I pulled it out with a big serving spoon, working to get out as much as I could. Then I poured in the water. I refreshed the coals, and put the lid on, setting it to boil while I worked on the artichokes.
The first task was to finish the stuffing. I stirred in the bread crumbs. If you use, by the way, pre-seasoned italian bread crumbs, I wouldn’t worry about adding in all the herbs. I stirred it all up, and it mixed pretty nicely. The crumbs absorbed the sausage grease very well. If it still looks too dry and unmanageable to you, you can add a bit of olive oil. I didn’t. It clumped, but was also a bit loose.
I pretty much followed Gary’s instructions in preparing the artichokes, except that I cut my stems shorter. I was using a shallower Dutch oven than he did, so I cut mine off at only about a half inch to 3/4 inch long. Here’s the process:
- Using my kitchen shears, I snipped off a row of the bottom-most leaves, and any leaf that was out on the stem.
- Then, I trimmed off about 1/4 inch off of every leaf in the head, just going around the perimeter. This looked nice, as Gary said, but it also made a big difference in the stuffing.
- Once I got to the central part, I used my chef’s knife to lop off the top half to 3/4 inch of the center. Then I used my thumb to pry the whole thing open, and to loosen and stretch the leaves.
- Finally, I cut off the stems.
Then, I stuffed the artichokes. I held them over a plate to catch all the leftover stuffing. I held it upright in front of me with one hand, and used that thumb to pry apart the leaves. I poured stuffing into the spaces with a spoon. I was surprised how much I could get into one head. Even still, there was about a third left over.
Back out to the Dutch Oven, where the water was boiling by now. I put each artichoke head into the Dutch oven, stem down, side by side. All four fit pretty snugly. I put on the lid and marked the time. From that time on, it was only a matter of maintaining the coals on the bottom and checking at 20-30 minute intervals if the water was still there. I let these cook for about an hour and 15 minutes.
While they were cooking, I first made the sauce, and then made the rice.
Like I said, the quantities of the ingredients of the sauce were pretty much improvised. I put in the mayo, then the salsa. I whisked those together and tasted to make sure there was a balance. Then, I added the other ingredients and seasonings by shake. At each point, I tasted, until I felt there was a good balance. I did add the chili powder, but I didn’t want this to be a hot dish. I just wanted some ZING.
When there was only 20 minutes or so left in the cooking, I put on the rice, water, and stock. I noted when it started boiling by when it vented out from under the lid. From there I let it cook on the coals for about another ten minutes. Then I took it off the coals and let it sit, covered, for another ten minutes. Finally, I fluffed it with my fork, and mixed in the remnant of the filling. That was another thing that was improvised.
I served it up with a bed of rice, and the flowery head of the artichoke on top. Off to the side was a small ramekin with the dipping sauce. I also had made some small loaves of sourdough today, so I included that in the picture.
If you’ve never eaten whole artichoke before, it really is a lot of fun. It’s finger food. You grab one of the leaves by the tip, and pull it off the head. It kinda acts as a spoon and catches the stuffing that was in that pocket. You dip the foot end into your sauce, then put it in your mouth. You scrape the leaf against your upper teeth, scraping all of that soft stuffing and artichokey goodness off the leaf husk. Then you set the leaf on your plate, and grab another.
It was a really delicious meal. One of my sons fought us on the leaves, but he loved the rice. The other loved the whole thing. It was a family evening together that I’ll treasure for a long time!