Spring Artichokes with Southern Spiced Cornbread Crumbs
Prepare the artichokes: Trim the stems a bit and snap off any brown outer leaves. Remove 2 layers of outer leaves. Cut off 1 inch of the top of the artichoke with a sharp knife. With kitchen sheers, cut 1/2 inch off of the remaining thorny tips. Rinse under cool water. (If doing in advance, place them in lemon water to cover.)
Add the vegetable broth, evoo, wine, bay leaves and sliced lemon to a 2 quart pot. Bring to a boil, add the artichokes. They will not be immersed in the cooking liquid. Simmer slow, covered until tender, 25 – 30 minutes, depending on their size. Turn them with tongs once or twice while they steam. Uncover, let cool in the broth.
With a small spoon, gently remove the hairy choke from the center. Go slow, not to let the artichoke fall apart, discard the choke. Cut off the stem (eat as a snack) and place the artichokes in a small roasting pan to fit,
or two pyrex shallow glass bowls (or bowls suitable for the broiler), as I did.
For the Cornbread Topping:
In a 10″ skillet, add the 2 t. evoo with 2 t. butter. Over moderate heat add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, but not colored, 3 minutes.
Add the fresh thyme, roasted peppers, hot pepper flakes, salt & pepper and the lemon zest – give a big stir to incorporate the ingredients. Add the cornbread crumbs, stir up and remove from the stove.
Add 2 T. of vegetable broth on the bottom of pan, under the artichokes, or 1T. under each baking bowl.
Top each artichoke with half of the topping, pushing it between the leaves, and adding to the center.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Drizzle with a little evoo and the parmesan. Bake in the hot oven until the topping is golden brown and crisped, about 5 minutes.
Serve the artichokes with lemon wedges and garnish with thyme sprigs.
Feel free to substitute fresh bread crumbs for the cornbread crumbs.