I have a confession. Artichokes have always intimidated me. These big thistles are covered with spike tipped leaves, have a center choke that will make you do just that if you eat it, and have always seemed like a lot of effort to basically serve as scoops for mayonnaise or butter sauce. Yet, with all these obstacles, I do enjoy artichokes and their tender hearts, so when I saw this recipe for shrimp stuffed artichoke bottoms, I couldn’t resist getting over my fear of artichokes. Another fantastic reason to conquer my fears were the beautifully photographed step by step instructions in Fine Cooking Magazine for preparing artichokes in a number of different ways.
I knew my family would have no part of this dish, so I only bought two (what seemed like) huge artichoke. Looking at the recipe, and knowing that I do not generally like boiled vegetables, I should have known that this would be the downfall of this recipe. All the other components seemed just right, but the idea of boiling the bottoms for 10 minutes before baking them seemed all wrong. I should have listened to that inner voice, but because of my lack of artichoke experience, I decided to ignore it. Now I know better. I would make this again, and for that it is worth sharing, but instead of boiling, I would either grill them, or steam them for just a few minutes, removing them while they are still a little firm. I might also use smaller shrimp and some parmesan cheese.
Shrimp Stuffed Artichoke
Adapted from Fine Cooking April/May 2010
For the breadcrumbs –
- 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups coarse day-old bread crumbs (I used leftover a baguette)
For the artichoke and shrimp
- 6 large artichokes, trimmed down (see below)
- 3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more for acidulated water
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the parsley, thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about one minute. Add the bread crumbs and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are golden-brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prep artichokes as described below, and place in acidulated water (see *note below).
In a large bowl, toss shrimp with 1 Tbs. olive oil, cayenne, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. In a heavy skillet over high heat, sear the shrimp (one-half batch at a time), turning once until lightly browned on edges and opaque throughout, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a medium bowl. In the same saucepan, reduce heat to low and add butter and chopped parsley letting the parsley sizzle in the pan for a minute or two, add lemon juice and shrimp, tossing lighly to coat the shrimp. Remove from heat and set aside.
Steam or grill artichoke bottoms until just fork tender (This is not how I made them this time, but how I would in the future). Transfer to a baking dish right side up, season with salt and pepper. Place 5-6 shrimp in each of the bottom along with some of the butter from the pan. Top with bread crumbs (and here I would add some freshly grated parmesan cheese) and bake 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Preparing artichoke bottoms:
Snap off all dark green outer leaves until only the pale inner leaves remain. Cut the leaves off at the base (red leaves will be visible). Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the stem and remove base of the leaves all around. Rub entire artichoke with a lemon half. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out hairy choke and thorny inner leaves then quickly rub inside of artichoke bottom with lemon and place in acidulated water top down to slow oxidation.
*Acidulated water is cool water with vinegar or the juice of 1-2 lemons. The acid helps slow down the browning oxidation process that artichokes are especially prone to.
**The artichoke above was prepared following the recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine. The artichoke bottoms were boiled for 10 minutes, allowed to cool, then baked for 10 minutes. The result was a too soft, bland tasting artichoke. I have altered the above recipe to (hopefully) yield a more flavorful result. If you try it before I do, let me know how it worked for you.