I love artichoke. As a kid, our standard way of eating it was to boil/steam the whole artichoke until cooked and serve with very garlicky melted butter to dip each leaf in and then scrape the soft buttery garlicky artichoke meat off each individual leaf, getting a bigger and bigger bite as we got to the more and more tender leaves toward the middle. I still love to eat artichoke this way (although now I use tallow instead of butter). My husband however, does not like to eat food that is this much work for each bite, although he loves the flavor of artichoke. For a quick meal at home, I love to sauté frozen artichoke hearts in butter or tallow with garlic for an easier-to-eat version. But sometimes, I like to get fancy.
This stuffed artichoke recipe is a Paleo adaptation of one I used to make for company and special occasions. The original version of the filling was inspired both by a hot artichoke dip that our friends used to make for us and serve with nachos every time we went to their house and by a hot artichoke and spinach dip that was our usual appetizer selection at one of our favorite restaurants. You can use fresh spinach as the recipe suggests (the 2 cups fresh chopped spinach would be roughly equivalent to 1 cup frozen chopped spinach) or substitute any mild tasting leafy green (since this is really just for adding bulk to the filling). A sweet kale like lancinato kale would work as would turnip greens or sweet potato greens (I actually used sweet potato greens for the version of this recipe in the photo).
Making stuffed artichoke is a substantial amount of work (mostly in scraping the meat off the inner leaves for the stuffing). However, one of the things I love about this dish (other than the fact that is it ridiculously delicious and beautiful) is that all of the work can be done in advance. That’s my main criteria for any dish I want to serve to company. If it can be mostly made in advance, then I don’t have to be frantically cooking in the kitchen instead of visiting. You could put everything together in the morning or even the day before. This recipe is for 4 stuffed artichokes but could easily scale up if you want.
This recipe also uses a variation of Paleo mayonnaise (made with half bacon fat! Yum!). For homemade mayo trouble shooting, see this recipe. Also, if you wanted to make this bacon fat mayo for other purposes, you could substitute apple cider vinegar for half or all of the lemon juice (the lemony flavor works extra well with the artichoke).
The bacon requirements for this recipe basically amount to cooking up an entire pound of bacon, but enjoying about ¾ of the bacon for your breakfast. I saved the crispiest bits of bacon, about one quarter of it, and all of the fat for this recipe. I used a pound of sugar-free bacon ends from US Wellness Meats and I cannot remember the last time I had such perfect bacon. When I’m cooking a whole pound of bacon, I like to simply lay the strips (or ends) on a large baking sheet, throw into a cool oven and then set the oven to 400F. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, it’s ready anywhere between when the oven is finished preheating about about 5 minutes later.
Bacon Fat Mayo
- Combine olive oil and liquid bacon fat in a measuring cup (or other good vessel for controlled pouring). It’s okay if there’s some crispy bacon bits mixed in.
- Place lemon juice, mustard powder and egg yolks in food processor or blender. Process until creamy (maybe 15 seconds).
- With blender or food processor on, VERY slowly dribble in the oil (think of it taking 2-3 minutes to add in all of the oil). It should stay thick and gradually get lighter and lighter (and look more and more like mayonnaise) as you add the oil.
- I typically like to pour out my mayonnaise into a bowl and whip it by hand with a whisk at the end just to make sure all the oil is well incorporated (if you have a really good food processor, you probably won’t need to do this). Store in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
Yield 6-8 servings
- Boil or steam artichoke in a large stock pot until tender, about 25-30 minutes.
- Drain artichoke and let cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add cooking fat and finely chopped onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and a little browned, about 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes (longer if you substitute a more substantial leaf). Set aside and let cool.
- Pulse cooled bacon slices in a food processor until you have some awesome homemade bacon bits (you could also chop by hand). Set aside.
- This step accomplished two things: you remove the inner leaves for scraping the meat off for the filling and you create the artichoke boats to fill. If you are a stuffed artichoke pro, use whatever method you like the best. For people less familiar with the inner workings of the artichoke, here are two options.
- Option 1: Using a sharp knife (I like to use a serrated knife), cut a ½” deep circle around the artichoke about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom (for rounder artichokes, slice half way). This cuts the top half off the outer leaves, which you will leave attached to the heart and stem to make the boats. Pull the inner leaves off and set aside. You want to leave about a 4 leaf thick layer around the outside to form the boat. Careful as you get close to the heart because those little leaves can be sharp. When you get to the spiky hairy middle at the heart of the artichoke, use a spoon or a knife to gently scrape the hairy stuff off the heart and discard. Now, use a spoon to scrape the meat off the inside and bottom of every leaf and put into a bowl (the middle leaves before they get too small have the most meat). Also scrape the top bit of the heart off inside the boat and add to the meat in your bowl (careful not to scrape too much of the heart way or else your boat will fall apart). Cut the stem to be flush with the bottom leaves of your boat (if the stem is tender, you can chop it up and add it to the meat in your bowl).
- Option 2: Using a sharp knife, cut the top 2/3 off the artichoke (the top ½ for rounder artichokes). Some of the leaf tops that you cut off will be tender enough to scrape some meat off with a fork. Now, pull out the inner leaves (it helps to pry with a knife to get started) and proceed as in option #1. The advantage to this option is that it’s a little easier to see what you’re doing in terms of pulling out the leaves and leaving enough behind for a good boat. The disadvantage is that it’s a bit harder to scrape the meat off half leaves compared to whole ones.
- Place the artichoke boats on a baking sheet lined with tin foil (alternately, you could grease a baking sheet). Preheat oven to 375F.
- If there are any big pieces of heart meat or stem meat in your bowl, chop the artichoke meat (or mash with a potato masher).
- Mix cooled artichoke meat, sautéed onion and spinach together in a bowl. Mix in bacon fat mayo.
- Spoon mixture into each boat (they will be filled somewhere between ¾ of the way and all the way to the top, depending on how tender your artichokes were and exactly where you cut the leaves). Spread to the edges.
- Sprinkle homemade bacon bits on the top of each stuffed artichoke (about 1 Tbsp per artichoke).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges.