What a weirrrrrddd vegetable, man.
Weird… and intimidating.
Actually – what are they? A thistle? “… a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food.” Again I say…. strange.
Before a mere month or so ago, I had hardly ever had the suckers. Maybe in a restaurant dish or two without much notice, but they were never an ingredient that had me grabbing at a menu, and most definitely never took up vacancy in my own house.
Jamie Oliver tells me this:
“At the centre of the artichoke is the choke, a fuzzy mass of fine hair-like material. Underneath the choke is the heart and from the heart is the stem…”
“The neck bones connected to the… rib bone… the rib bone’s connected to the…” Um…
WHAT DO I EAT?!?
And then there’s the question of how you prepare and cook such a thing. I always felt like – if I ever figured out how to chop the sucker – I’d be too scared of eating a part that turned out to be poisonous and that the whole world would have been aware of this little factor except me.
I mean – it is a thistle.
But alas. Then I learned.
I learned that these guys come conveniently chopped, peeled and preserved in the handiness of their very own can or jar. Amen.
So with my latest dip into some new kitchen territories, I’ve found myself quite madly in love with this little thistle. It has a unique taste, yet very subtle, and just so happens to make the best companion to one of my all time favorite ingredients…
To continue with my recent love for all things artichoke and ricotta, I threw together this super easy, super delicious chicken slow cooker recipe. I knew spinach artichoke dip was a thing (and a popular thing at that), but I didn’t think it would be as cooth to have a bowl of it for dinner. So I took what I knew of this flavor combination and thought – why not throw it on top some protein? Some slow cooked, extra moist protein at that.
Easy, simple and delicious. Pop the chicken in the slow cooker before heading to work, take three minutes to mix together the sauce, let the cheesiness get all melty, and bam – you have a restaurant-worthy dish to serve your guests or family.
Pour chicken broth into slow cooker (enough to fill atleast an inch from the bottom). Place in chicken and top with chopped onion and garlic. Cover chicken with spinach and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Leave to cook on high for 4-6 hours (or on low for 6-8).
Make your sauce by combining ricotta, chopped artichokes, 2 Tbsp parmesan and another quick sprinkle of salt and pepper. Reserve last 2 Tbsp parmesan (or more if desired) for the end.
In the last 5 minutes of cooking, spread your cheese sauce over the chicken and spinach. Let cook just until melty. Serve each chicken thigh/breast covered with the cheese mixture and sprinkle on additional parmesan.
Serve hot with your choice of starch and veg.
Leftovers? Want more ways to use this fantastic flavor combination? Good thing it pairs well with nearly anything and can be served in a variety of different ways.
Try shredding the chicken / ricotta / artichoke mixture and piling it ontop of a bed of butternut squash and spinach, or stuff it into a baked potato (sweet potato or russet would both be devine).
Butternut squash hash topped with chicken / artichokes / ricotta / parmesan on top a bed of spinach
Or try the whole concoction in salad form. I have been eating this spinach/artichoke inspired caesar salad all week. Spinach, chopped artichokes, chicken, feta, dressed with your favorite garlicy caesar dressing and sprinkled with parmesan. YUM to the max.
Spinach Artichoke Chicken Caesar Salad with Feta and Parmesan
Have you ever cooked and prepared a real artichoke?
Any artichoke recipes to share with me??