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CRAB-STUFFED ARTICHOKES

A while back I wrote about a classic oyster and artichoke soup from New Orleans. Artichokes are among the  favorite ingredients for Louisiana cooks, both professionals and amateurs. It goes without saying that crab, along with shrimp and crawfish, is another favorite Louisiana ingredient. Combining the two is the basis for another popular Louisiana dish. I first enjoyed it many years ago when Susan and I were dinner guests of a great home cook in Ruston, Louisiana. Globe artichokes stuffed with a savory dressing is a welcome alternative to the usual artichoke bracts (leaves) dipped in aioli or Hollandaise.

Some Louisiana food authorities assert that stuffed artichokes – plain only or with shellfish – had their origin in Italian restaurants throughout the state and then became widely popular. That seems likely, because cultivated artichokes apparently had their origins in Sicily, and Italian cookbooks usually have many recipes using artichokes.  At the same time, I have only been able to find one recipe for stuffed artichokes – that by Giuliano Bugialli in the classic The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, first published in 1977. He stuffed his artichokes with pancetta or prosciutto.

In the USA, Castroville, California, seems to be the epicenter of the artichoke crop. The town dubs itself “Artichoke Capital of the World”, and you can see miles and miles of artichoke fields along the highway or through the windows of the train. Roadside stands abound.

The Louisiana crop is more modest, but it seems to meet the local need. We are nearing the end of the usual season, but with our present world-wide commerce, artichokes are available year around.

Whatever the origin of the recipe or the source of the vegetable, it is easy to see why stuffed artichokes are so popular. This recipe combines crab and Romano cheese, not considered by some to be a good combination. For me, it works.

 

RECIPE

Crab-Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 8 ounces crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
  • ½ cup dry bread crumbs + more for topping
  • ½ cup fresh Romano cheese, grated + more for topping
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning or Old Bay
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method

  1. In a stock pot boil enough water to submerge the artichokes. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the boiling water and add the rinds. Add the artichokes, cover and boil slowly for 30 – 40 minutes or until an outer leaf is soft and can be removed easily. Drain and cool the artichokes.
  2. Prepare the artichokes for stuffing by cutting off the stem so that the artichoke can sit squarely on the work surface. Using scissors and starting up about 1/3 from the base, cut off the pointed ends of the outer leaves, working around the choke, trimming all the leaves until you come to the pink-hued inner leaves. Remove those leaves to expose the choke (also called the chaff). With a teaspoon, remove the fibrous chaff until the base of the artichoke is exposed and smooth. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the stuffing by combining the crab, bread crumbs, Romano, beaten egg, and seasonings in a small bowl.
  4. Working from the outer leaves inward and using a spoon, place a good teaspoon of the filling in the hollow of each leaf, reserving enough of the stuffing to fill the central hollow.
  5. Sprinkle the tops of the stuffed artichokes with additional bread crumbs and grated cheese. Drizzle the tops with melted butter and place the stuffed artichokes in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 40 minutes. Serve while still warm. Eat by pulling off the bracts, one by one. Take a bite of stuffing and scrape the soft artichoke flesh off the bract between your teeth. Keep on working toward the center. Cut the center into bite-sized pieces.

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