Since today is not only Finger Food Friday but New Year’s Eve Eve, I thought I’d make something that could transition nicely between a casual Happy Hour and a fancy New Year’s Eve bash. These stuffed artichoke bottoms do just that. The filling consists of a humble combination of greens and pork, in this instance spinach and pancetta, that get dressed up with a rich-tasting (I avoid the calorie bomb here by using skim milk) Creole Bechamel thickened with Parmesan cheese. The artichoke bottoms? Yet another fun vehicle to transport all that creamy filling to your mouth! If a sit down dinner is more your New Year’s Eve celebrating style, serve this recipe as an elegant side dish by eliminating the Italian bread crumbs and the baking stage. Just spoon the saucy mixture over warm artichoke bottoms. You could even fold in some lump crabmeat or crawfish tails. Ooh!
When it’s time to toast–either the end of the work week or the beginning of 2012–I’ve got two nontraditional bubbly suggestions for you to try. The first is Infinium, that “champagne beer” I told you about last Friday. That was some really good stuff and one that’s perfect for beer-lovers. The other option is a Champagne Sorbet Cocktail, which is simply a small scoop of sorbet topped with Champagne or any other type of sparkling wine. I hold that cocktail near and dear to my heart since it was my Saints Super Bowl celebratory drink! Sorbet comes in a wide assortment of flavors, so try several different kinds. My favorites are the lemon and the pomegranate, acai and blueberry blend.
I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I hope you’re able to bid farewell to 2011 surrounded by family, friends and, of course, delicious food! Until next “year” …
Spinach-Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms with Creole Bechamel Recipe
3 14-ounce cans artichoke bottoms
1 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices pancetta, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup Creole Bechamel Sauce (see recipe)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Drain artichoke bottoms; soak in cold water for one hour to remove brine and vinegar taste. Cook spinach according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta; cook until it begins to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender, an additional 3-5 minutes. Add spinach; cook until heated through, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Creole Bechamel Sauce, Parmesan cheese and Italian bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon spinach mixture evenly into artichoke bottoms. Bake until lightly brown on top, 8-10 minutes. Serves 6-8.
Creole Bechamel Sauce Recipe
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisking constantly, until blended and bubbly (that’s your white roux). Do not allow flour to brown. Gradually whisk in warm milk; cook, whisking constantly, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in Creole seasoning, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 cup.