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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Artichokes feature Creole flavors

Artichokes are a classic Creole Italian ingredient. They were originally brought to America by the Italian immigrants, many who settled in New Orleans. Although artichokes are hard to grow in Louisiana, they are often featured as appetizers and in sauces.

Locally, you can find artichokes either as canned artichoke hearts or whole fresh artichokes. So I thought today I would share a recipe featuring both. The canned artichokes are featured as Artichoke Balls, while the fresh artichoke is Crabmeat Stuffed Artichokes.

This is a treasured recipe from my mom. Artichokes was one of her favorite ingredients to cook with. Her most requested artichoke dish was her Stuffed Artichoke, which I have previously shared. Here is a great appetizer bursting with Italian flavors. I liken this dish to a stuffed artichoke without the leaves.

Artichoke Balls

2 cans Artichoke Hearts, thoroughly drained

2 cloves of Garlic

2 Eggs

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

3/4 to 1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs

3/4 cup Grated Italian Cheese, either Parmesan or Romano

Hot Sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 325℉.

Chop artichokes and garlic very fine. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Form into little balls less than 1-inch in diameter and bake for about 20 minutes. They should be lightly browned.

This is a recipe from my next cookbook. I have copied it directly from the manuscript to give you a taste of things to come.

Crabmeat Stuffed Artichoke

This is New Orleans Creole Italian cooking at its best. This recipe is for one artichoke, but I always make multiple artichokes. They go very quickly. This is also a great dish to make in advance. It gets better by stuffing the artichoke, refrigerating it and cooking it the next day.

1 large Artichoke

Salted Water

2 Lemons, divided

2 cups Italian Style Breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon Onion Powder

1 tablespoon dried Oregano

1 tablespoon Garlic, minced

1 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

Dash of Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

1 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, divided

1 cup Lump Crabmeat, picked thru for shells

Preheat oven to 400 ℉.

Slice the stem portion of the artichoke off at the bottom so that it will stand vertically. Cut off the top inch of the artichoke and use scissors to trim the points off the leaves.

In a large pot with a heavy lid, add the artichoke. Add enough water to cover the artichoke and pour in the salt. Slice 1 lemon into halves and squeeze into the pot to keep the artichoke from discoloring. Turn the burner on high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook until tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Check for doneness (the leaves should effortlessly pull out and a knife should easily pierce the bottom). Remove from the hot water and quickly submerge into ice-cold water for 5 minutes as an added means to preserve color. Remove and drain.

In a large mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs. Mix in all the ingredients except the olive oil and crabmeat. Cut the remaining lemon in half and squeeze half the lemon in the mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle olive oil into breadcrumbs while stirring to achieve a wet consistency, about 1/2 cup. Add the crabmeat and mix together, but try to leave the crab in lumps taking care not to break them up.

Starting from the bottom, pack the mixture into each leaf until every leaf is stuffed. Any remaining mixture should fill the center cavity area. Drizzle the entire stuffed artichoke with the remaining olive oil, squeeze the remaining half of lemon, and bake for 15 minutes or until browned on top.

I know that artichokes are often featured in California cuisine. I find, however, that Creole Italian flavors work better with the vegetable. So, don’t be afraid to reach for artichokes. You will be glad that you did.

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