Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Artichokes
Autumn is creeping in and while it is one of my favorite seasons, I'm not quite there yet. I was trying to look ahead to the upcoming fall holidays and started thinking about turkey. Turkey led to stuffing, which then led to a mac and cheese stuffed turkey idea (I kid...kind of), which led to other foods being stuffed with mac and cheese. Avocadoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, bacon cups, you name it! I was off on a huge mac and cheese tangent.
Now that we've pulled back the curtain on how my scary mind works, on to our newest recipe: Mac & Cheese Stuffed Artichokes! Ohboyohboyohboy. Costco had artichokes in stock and while I know my hubs doesn't prefer them, I do love artichokes and wanted to see what I could do with them (other than juggle them, of course). I decided, for presentation's sake, to make them two ways. One: the entire artichoke stuffed with mac and cheese and two: a halved artichoke stuffed with mac and cheese. Once I was finished, I honestly couldn't decide which presentation I liked best. But I am getting ahead of myself.
First up, I gathered my ingredients.
Luscious, bright, lovely artichokes. Tillamook cheddar cheese. And Kerrygold butter, of course. Yummmmmmmm. Step one: Cook your artichokes. Fill a large pot halfway with water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the artichokes and simmer them, covered, until you can easily pierce the bottoms with a fork (about 20 minutes). Drain the artichokes and set them aside to cool. In the same large pot in which you cooked the artichokes (yes, you'll only be using one pot for this whole recipe! Love having fewer dishes to wash), cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, then set aside. I highly recommend using elbows as they are compact and fit nicely in the relatively small space allowed within the artichoke. While the elbows are cooking, make the bread-crumb topping.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt your butter (about 20 seconds). Add breadcrumbs and stir to combine, then set aside.
Back to your large pot. Add cream and half and half to the pot over low heat. Warm the mixture to a gentle simmer (about five minutes). Add Crystal hot sauce, garlic powder, seasoned salt and seasoned pepper and stir. Next, add your cheeses and stir over low heat until the cheeses have melted. Add elbows to the sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to sit while you prep the artichokes.
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees and lightly Pam a baking sheet.
Back to the artichokes. First, I'll show you how to prep and stuff the full artichoke. Make sure it has cooled enough to be handled. Cut off the bottom of the stem enough to allow the 'choke to sit upright on its own. Next, begin carefully (very carefully!) pulling out the inner leaves. Continue pulling until you reach the "choke" part of the artichoke. Grab a small spoon, and now carefully scrape off the choke part, ensuring that you remove all of it. You'll be left with a hole about the size of a tangerine inside the artichoke. Here's the progression:
Now, stuff the artichoke with your mac and cheese until slightly mounded at the top. Add a nice coating of the breadcrumb mixture, then set on the baking sheet.
Next, the prep for the halved artichoke. Grab a cooled artichoke and cut in half lengthwise. Begin carefully pulling out the inner leaves of the 'choke until you reach the "choke" part. Grab a small spoon and carefully remove the choke fibers, being sure to remove them all. Once the leaves and choke are removed, you should have a nice hole in the artichoke half. Here's the progression:
Stuff the artichoke halves with your mac and cheese until slightly mounded at the top. Add a nice coating of the breadcrumb mixture, then set on the baking sheet.
Now your stuffed artichokes are ready for the oven! Pop them into the preheated oven and give it about 4 minutes (please keep a very close eye on them as they can burn very easily and quickly), they'll turn golden brown and crunchy on top - wonderful!
Pull them from the oven and allow them to cool for at least five minutes. After that, feel free to dig right in!
Four enthusiastic elbows up! The basic mac and cheese recipe, nestled within each artichoke, sang with flavor. The delicate 'choke flavor just seemed to be enhanced by the mac & cheese addition. Plus, these really create a beautiful presentation.