New Orleans Style Stuffed Artichokes

New Orleans style stuffed artichokes area a beautiful example of the Sicilian influence on New Orleans cuisine.  These are traditionally prepared for St. Joseph altars and often appear on New Orleans holiday tables and during Mardi Gras season.  It’s a labor of love, but stuffed artichokes freeze well and are the perfect make-ahead appetizer.   

When I think about stuffed artichokes I always recall our daughter’s moved to the West Coast, and how much she missed the legendary food of New Orleans, particularly the seafood and the stuffed artichokes.   She quickly learned to maneuver the Los Angeles freeway, and was willing to drive across town when a friend offered to make artichokes for dinner.  To her surprise, she arrived to find a pot of boiled artichokes and a simple dipping sauce. Although she enjoyed dinner, it made her long for her beloved New Orleans style artichokes…the overstuffed, pecorino and garlic infused artichokes that are steamed until the leaves are tender. 

On our next visit to west coast, I traveled with stuffed artichokes in my suitcase. I guess this recipe is TSA approved.   Not only have the stuffed artichokes been on a journey, but so has this recipe.  Over the years I’ve tried my hand at these New Orleans delicacies, but with only mediocre results.  It wasn’t until I met Mrs. Gloria Lama that I learned to make an incredible New Orleans style stuffed artichoke.  My stuffed artichoke recipe is based on the notes that I have from my conversation with Mrs. Gloria.  I only knew Mrs. Gloria for a few years, but we always enjoyed conversations about the food of New Orleans.   She and her husband were the proprietors of the St. Rock Market for over 60 years. The St. Rock market was well known in New Orleans for its boiled seafood and poorboys.  The market had new owners in the 90’s and was closed after Hurricane Katrina for many years.  It has recently been transformed into a southern food hall with an incredible selection of food and beverage vendors. 

When preparing stuffed artichokes, Mrs. Gloria insisted on using her homemade bread crumbs, and she would never consider using store bought Italian style breadcrumbs.  There’s such an enormous difference in texture and flavor, that she always kept an entire bucket of her bread crumb mixture in her refrigerator. In New Orleans we have Reising’s and Leidenheimer French bread that I recommend for this recipe. Both brands have a crispy outside and a light and airy inside.  Mrs. Gloria prepared her breadcrumbs with this style of French bread that she would air dry for 3 days to a crispy perfection. My recipe includes a simple 45-minute solution to achieving a loaf that is crispy throughout, with equivalent results to the 3-day air dried version. This recipe has a couple of components, but it’s definitely worth making. Take a suggestion from Mrs. Gloria and use the stuffing mixture to stuff your eggplant and zucchini.   I miss Mrs. Gloria and our conversations.  I hope you enjoy these artichokes inspired by Mrs. Gloria’s lifetime of preparing them for others. 

 

New Orleans Style Stuffed Artichokes

Servings: 4 stuffed artichokes

 

2 10 oz. loaves French bread such as Reising’s or Leidenheimer

4 cups Pecorino cheese, finely grated

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh minced garlic

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 lemons, one halved, one sliced, one quartered for serving

4 7-oz. artichokes

1. Preheat oven to 300° and place rack in the center of oven.  Cut loaves of bread the length of baking sheet. Bake until crispy in the center, turning bread half way through cooking time, about 45 minutes.  Loaves should become crispy throughout and brown very little. 

2. Working in batches, process bread in a food processor to a fine breadcrumb.  It should make about 4 cups of breadcrumbs.

3. In a large bowl combine breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Add olive oil and mix until a sandy consistency, and when a handful of stuffing is squeezed it holds together.   If stuffing is too dry, add olive oil a Tablespoon at a time until sandy texture is achieved.

4. Fill a large bowl 2/3 full with water, and add the juice of the halved lemon.  Set aside

5. Working with one artichoke at a time, slice off upper third of artichoke, and cut the stem end short enough so that the artichoke can sit upright.   Using scissors, trim the thorns off the tips of remaining leaves.  Using a spoon or melon baller, remove the hairy center choke, and submerge in bowl of lemon water.  Repeat with remaining artichokes.

6. Fill a large Dutch oven with 1 inch of water and set on cooktop.

7. Working with one well drained artichoke at a time, fill the center with stuffing pressing lightly to compact. Working from the center outward, pry apart leaves and fill with stuffing until compact.  Set stuffed artichoke on a double thickness of foil to ensure it doesn’t tear and fill with water.   Drizzle with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and top with a slice of lemon.  Lift the foil layers to wrap the bottom, sides and partially on top. Stuff and wrap the remaining artichokes. 

8. Place the stuffed and wrapped artichokes in the Dutch oven snuggly, to hold each other upright during the steaming process.  Bring water to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and steam artichokes until the leaves come off easily when pulled and the thick fleshy end is plump and tender, about 2 hours. If water completely evaporates, add more water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue steaming.

9. Remove artichokes from pot, let cool about 15 minutes before servings warm with a squeeze of lemon juice. 

 

Do Ahead: Steamed and completely cooled artichokes can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a re-sealable freezer bag, and frozen for up to 1 month.  Thaw overnight in refrigerator.  Steam in a steamer and serve.  To reheat in a microwave, place thawed stuffed artichoke in a microwave safe bowl, add just enough water to cover the bottom of the bowl and wrap with plastic wrap.  Poke a few holes in plastic wrap and microwave a minute at a time until stuffing and artichoke are heated.