When I posted artichokes, I said that the hearts are the best part and the petals are essentially a dip delivery system. It is fun to eat the outside petals working your way to the heart but sometimes, you just want to get to the best part quickly. This is a perfect small dish which goes wonderfully with wines. The taste of artichokes gets enhanced if you drink a small amount of water after tasting for some reason. The shiitake duxelle has nice almost meat-like flavor but this dish is totally vegetarian (if you care).
I baked this is a toaster oven and the temperature was too high and the heat was uneven making the bread crumb crust unevenly darkened but it still tasted ok. Here is the cut surface (left) and I served the artichoke with the chicken strudel (right) as a first dish of the evening. We had a Napa cab, which is rather austere and Bordeaux-like but without a funky nose, Round Pond Cab 2006 (WE 92). We are not sure we would give a score of 92 to this wine; a bit too austere for our taste. Nevertheless, this starter dish was a good match for this wine.
Cleaning the artichokes: It requires some work but once you are used to it, it is rather quick. As seen in the image below, using a sharp long knife, I cut around the outer petals by moving the knife blade up-and-down while rotating the artichoke. It is similar, but more exaggerated motions, to “katsura muki” かつらむき for daikon. You end up with something like in #2. Cut the inner young petals off and remove the outer skin of the stalk and the bottom green part of the heart (#3). You may want to have a lemon half handy so that you can rub the cut surface with lemon to prevent discoloration. I plunge these cleaned artichoke hearts into acidulated and salted water containing lemons (1, cut in half with juice squeezed into the water), bay leaves (2-3) and onion (1 medium roughly cut up) (#4). You could also add black peppercorns.
Cooking artichoke herts: Gently boil the hearts for 20- 30 minutes until a skewer goes through the bottom of the hearts easily. After they have cooled, I remove the remaining inner petals to expose the chokes (left in the image below).
Although you could just eat the artichoke hearts as is with melted butter or mayonnaise, I decided to make it a bit more fancy; artichoke hearts stuffed with shiitake duxelle.
Duxelle: This is for four (4) artichoke hearts. The classic recipe uses button mushrooms but we like fresh shiitake. I finely chop a shallot (1 medium), and fresh shiitake mushrooms (one 3.5 oz package or about 100 grams). I also include the stems. After removing the stem from the cap, I cut off the discolored end and then tear it along the direction of the fibers into thin strands and then chop finely. I removed the stalk of the artichoke hearts so that the hearts will sit on the plate properly. I chop finely the artichoke stalks.
I saute the shallot first with light olive oil (1-2 tbs) for a few minutes and add the shiitake and the artichoke stalks. I season it with salt and pepper and keep sautéing for several more minutes. The pan should be rather dry without any liquid because the mushrooms will exude some liquid. I add Marsala (2 tbs, or port if you prefer) and saute until all the liquid has evaporated. I remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasonings and let it cool down to room temperature. When it is cool, I mix in chopped parsley (1 tbs).
This looks like a lot of work but I did it in stages over two days so it was not too bad. If you like the taste of artichokes, you will like this dish.