Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese (and a dijonnaise dipping sauce)

I’ve been thinking about stuffing and frying artichoke hearts for a while now. Maybe someone else has been thinking about trying a new haircut, or taking a new class at the gym – meanwhile, my brain is running the endless slot-machine reel of ingredients, just seeing what will pop up and sound delicious together. Yesterday afternoon, the final ingredient just sort of fell in to place. I was putting together a few appetizers for my parents, who are hosting some friends for the weekend – and I ended up with just a tiny amount of extra bacon. It was about the equivalent of two slices, chopped, and given that one of the top five culinary rules in my household is “Let Not Bacon Go Uneaten”, I knew I needed to use it up.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

I had been planning to stuff some artichoke hearts with blue cheese, and then pan fry them… and what could POSSIBLY make blue cheese stuffed artichoke hearts better? BACON, that’s what.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese (and a dijonnaise dipping sauce)
serves about 4 as an appetizer

1 can whole artichoke hearts (packed in water), 5-7 per can size
2 oz crumbled blue cheese
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped finely
salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup whole grain mustard

1.) Drain your can of artichokes, and carefully remove them all from the can. Artichokes are pretty delicate, and will fall apart very easily, so you’ll want to be sure to be gentle when you handle them! Using a very sharp knife, cut each artichoke heart in half lengthwise. Lay each half cut-side down on some paper towel, and allow them to drain for about 5 minutes.

2.) While the artichokes drain, combine your blue cheese, bacon, and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

3.) When the artichokes are nice and dry, use a small paring knife to carefully remove the inner leaves of each one. There is no need to actually cut into the leaves themselves – they will separate from the heart very easily, so you just want to use the tip of the knife to kind of scrape at the leaves (putting the tip of the knife close to the heart), so you can pull them out. I realize that that explanation is probably clear as mud – but after 1 or 2, you’ll get the hang of it. You want to remove enough leaves so that you have room for a little more then a teaspoon worth of filling, but leave enough leaves so that the artichoke still has some structure to it.

The artichoke heart on the left has had the inner leaves removed - the one on the right has not.

The artichoke heart on the left has had the inner leaves removed – the one on the right has not.

4.) Once the center leaves have been removed from each artichoke, gently press a small amount of blue cheese filling into each one. Make sure you push the filling in firmly enough that it won’t fall out easily.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

5.) Now that the artichokes are stuffed, set up your breading station. In 3 shallow bowls, pour in your flour, eggs (well beaten), and panko. Season the flour with a generous pinch each of kosher salt and pepper.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

6.) Bread each artichoke heart by first coating it in flour (and dusting off any excess), then coating it in egg, and finally dipping it into the panko. Rather than tossing the artichoke around in the panko, I like to just lay it in the bowl, and then use my hand to dump panko on top of it, and gently press the panko around it, so it adheres.

7.) Place each breaded artichoke on to a plate, and when they’re all done, place the plate into the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will let allow the breading and the cheese to firm up a bit, so they don’t fall apart in the pan.

8.) While the artichoke hearts chill, make your dipping sauce. Add 1/4 cup mayo and 1/4 cup whole grain mustard to a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and mix well. Set aside.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

9.) Heat a large skillet over medium heat, with a couple tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to create a very thin layer of oil over the whole bottom of the pan). Take your chilled artichoke hearts, and lay them cheese-side-down in the pan. Allow them to cook on this side for about 3 minutes, until they are golden brown. Flip them, and cook on the second side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the hearts to a paper towel-lined plate, and allow the excess oil to drain off for a few minutes. Serve warm, with the dijonnaise dipping sauce.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

These little artichoke hearts were a delicious, crispy, salty bite of goodness. Nice and crunchy, a little smoky, a little salty, a little tangy… the dijonnaise is a perfect accompaniment, adding just the right amount of creaminess. I cannot lie, they’d be a little fussy and time intensive for a larger crowd; but, on a night that you want to make a slightly fancy dinner for just a few people? They are perfect. I served these with this salad for dinner last night, and it was the perfect summer meal.

Happy weekend!
Tina

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