The object of my affection at Trattoria Marcella is but a humble thistle elevated. May I introduce you to the Stuffed Artichoke? Masterful and unique, its full-globe presentation makes me swoon. It’s simple and gorgeous. How Chef Steve Komorak turns out a perfectly executed full artichoke every time is part of its mystique.
But he does, and for that I am inspired.
In their raw form, artichokes are tough and fibrous. There is a furry little heart in the center that needs to be removed before you dive in. Sometimes there are thorns. It makes me wonder if the same person who peeled the first banana and cracked the first coconut is the same person who decided he’d try to eat an artichoke. Seriously … this would seem like the stuff of dares.
Thankfully, someone accepted the dare and the artichoke was cultivated, finessed, and served.
When you order the Stuffed Artichoke, be prepared. What arrives at your table is breathtaking. The gorgeous green globe is stuffed with cous cous and toasted pine nuts. You can smell the herbs and parmigiano marry up with the peppery olive oil, which Chef Komorak procures specifically from Italy’s Umbria region.
As you peel back the leaves, layer by layer, your experience will change. The first layer or two are hearty and they stand up to help you get the flavorful stuffing to your mouth. It would seem that the leaves were made to be spoons, but not so fast. There is meat in those leaves! And oh my, it is delicious.
(Hint #1: Use your fingers and don’t be shy about pulling the leaves through your teeth to get every bit of artichoke meat you can. Leaving behind any morsel of goodness is a crime!)
Eventually, you’ll realize that you’ve come to very tender, very meaty leaves that seem to melt when they hit the edge of your lips. You’ll also notice that your hands are a mess and you might blush slightly to realize you’re licking your fingers. Let’s face it: It is a sexy, intimate thing, eating an artichoke in public.
And then, just when you think your experience could not improve … you see a lovely bed of cous cous and cheese on top of the artichoke bottom. This, my friends, is the little bit of heaven you’ve been craving. If you have to, Rochambeau* with your companion – best two out of three – to take full possession of bottom and don’t look back. It’s that good.
(Hint #2: Squirrel away a piece of the crusty bread ingot that comes when you’re seated. It is perfect for mopping up all of the yummy goodness left in the bottom of your dish.)
Take it from me, stuffing an artichoke and making it edible can break even the most dedicated home cook. I’ve tried and it takes hours, and hours, and hours of steaming and boiling. I’ve also scraped my hands on the tough raw exterior and pouted in frustration when none of it worked.
Now there is no reason to fret or pout. There is a restaurant where it works. So, I say, “Cheers to the magic Chef Komorek works in his kitchen!” Make your reservations, ask for the Stuffed Artichoke, and Eat It, St. Louis! You’ll be happy you did.
*Rock, paper, scissors
3600 Watson Rd
St. Louis, MO 63109