Growing up, I always ate artichokes in the steam & dip the leaves way (either mayo or melted butter), which is a fine way to eat them, to be sure. When I moved to Italy, however, I discovered a world of possibilities with regard to the artichoke. Sliced thin then battered and fried. Raw and tender in a salad with fresh lemon juice and parmigiano cheese. Sautéed in a frittata. Then of course there’s the alla romana and the alla giudia methods—both wonderful. Italians really show their love for carciofi in the infinite and glorious ways they prepare them.
Use any blue cheese you like here—Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton. I used a local marvel called blu Mugello, produced at one of my all-time favorite places, Fattoria il Palagiaccio. The extra dose of a creamy white cheese like ricotta fresca or mascarpone mellows the flavors and renders the melted cheese stuffing fluffier, nicer in consistency (I find melted blues can be, well, weird).
3 medium/large artichokes
80-100 grams (about 3 or 4 ounces) blue cheese of your choice
2 Tablespoons ricotta fresca, or mascarpone, or cream cheese
3-4 Tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
Take the cheeses out the fridge to warm to room temp.
Carefully clean the artichoke stems with a sharp paring knife by scraping away the outer fibrous layer. Slice the artichokes lengthwise down the middle, then cut out the fuzzy choke, being careful not to cut away any of the heart. Use a teaspoon to help scoop out the choke (you want a small, clean cavity just above the heart.) With scissors, cut off all the spines but do not peel away any of the tough outer leaves. Do this for all three artichokes. They will look something like this:
Blanch the artichokes ‘face down’ in low-boiling water for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a clean towel to dry completely. In a grill-style grooved pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil, and brush the fats around to cover the grill thoroughly. When the pan is very hot, grill the artichokes face down for 3-5 minutes or until they are golden. They should look something like this:
Transfer them to a plate and lightly salt. Gather the fats and juices from the grill pan in a small bowl. (Alternatively, if you have your outdoor grill handy, you can grill the ‘chokes a few minutes face down over medium coals, or until they are slightly blackened.)
While the artichokes are cooling, prepare the stuffing. Blend the cheeses together with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs and combine. You will have a not-exactly-pretty paste:
Set the oven to grill function at 200° C/400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. When the artichokes are cool enough to handle, stuff the cavity of each artichoke half with the cheese mixture. You can make a small mound, and also stuff some into the crevices of the now-soft leaves of the artichoke. Brush some of the melted butter/oil on them, then sprinkle with more bread crumbs to create a slightly crunchy top. Grill them on one of the higher shelves in your oven for about 10 minutes or until they are bubbly and golden. Garnish with fresh thyme, or fresh nepeta if you have it on hand.