Thursday, September 3, 2009

Texas Mary's Artichokes

Mary is such a lovely, soft spoken lady. Col. Joe is a lucky guy. I understand that she is one of the last repositories of Aunt Jo Cafarella's recipes. As I said before, they were very close from the time Joe and Mary married till Aunt Jo's death, so close in fact that Aunt Jo passed on her secrets. Sounds a bit like the Masons, doesn't it. Sometimes it requires a lot of trust to pass your hard won secrets on to someone. As a result of this Mary has the reputation of being a fine cook. Of course she could have been a fine cook before, but Italians only credit you with the title if you can "Cook Italian".
Mary has a variation on Artichoke preparation that she would like to share with us, so here it is. I must say, Mary, This has more than a hint of Arabic in it.


1 lb bag fine bread crumbs (about 5 cups)

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp parsley (dried) See note

2 tbsp basil (dried) See note

1 Cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

Mix all ingredients together well. Put in freezer to keep fresh and ready to use when you need it.

NOTE: I would use fresh herbs when I intend to use the bread crumb mixture immediately. If I intend to freeze the bread crumb mixture for use at a later date, I use the dried herbs.


Mary starts with the basic seasoned bread crumbs. Then she adds a 3oz jar of small capers well drained and squeezed dry to the bread crumb mixture. Put in your food processor about ten thin slices of salami or ham, one half cup of drained martini or Spanish olives and three or four jalapeno stuffed olives. (she likes the zip they add). Process this and add to your bread crumb mixture. Mix well. You may need to use your hand to mix to be sure all gets blended well and the mixture remains dry. This can all be done in advance and kept in the freezer until ready to stuff your artichokes.

Note from Bill: I am finding as I read more that the islanders used a mortar and pestle for many of these stuffings and anything that we might use a processor for.

Bring a pot of water to a boil with plenty of salt and a sliced fresh lemon. While the water is coming to a boil, clean the artichokes by cutting the stem off to about one half inch of the base of the artichoke. Reserve the stem. Cut off the very end and discard. Peel the stem.

Peel off the small leaves at the base of the artichoke and discard. With kitchen shears, cut about a half inch off the top of the other leaves. Using a knife, cut leaf ends across the very top of the artichoke. Cook the artichokes in the boiling water about 15 minutes. The stem pieces can be cooked in the water about 5 minutes or until tender. With tongs, remove the artichokes from the water and place upside down on a board to drain and cool. When they are cool, stick your fingers into the center and remove the fibrous leaves. Using a spoon you will expose the fuzzy choke, remove it and discard. It is not edible. The fuzzy choke sits on top of the “heart” or bottom of the artichoke and the most delicious part. I put in a mushroom to fill this empty space. Once they are all cleaned and ready to be stuffed, have a pan available that will hold the artichokes and put about one half inch of water in the bottom. Your pan is ready for the stuffed artichokes.

With a spoon, put a little of the stuffing behind each leaf. You will need to keep turning it to make sure that you get each leaf. Then put a spoonful of the stuffing in the center. The stuffing is dry and will fall into the bottom of the leaf. (This way with each pull of the leaves between your teeth, you get a bit of stuffing with the tidbit of the meat of the artichoke.) Place in the pan of water. When they are all stuffed, and into the pan, drizzle well with olive oil. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown the top and reduce the moisture so the leaves will not be soggy from the steam of cooking. I serve them with a slice of lemon placed in the center of each.

Note: Do Not Ever Put Any Leaves Into Your Disposal

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