This writer learned many years ago from her mother-in-law how to make stuffed artichokes. They are a family favorite and, though they take a bit of work, are well worth it. Artichokes in the northeast are not at their best all year. When they come into the grocery stores and are well priced, that is the time to make this delicious dish.
In order to stuff them, you need to pick the perfect artichokes. You want them to be as square as possible, avoid buying the ones that are pointy. When you are purchasing, be sure to look for black spots, you want to avoid these. Take a good look at the stem and make sure that it is nice and firm, squeeze it a bit. It should not give way under pressure.
When you get your artichokes home, it is best to cook them as soon as possible. The first thing to do is to cut the stem off very close to the bottom. Be careful as you do this next step because the ends of the leaves are very sharp like a thorn and you will end up cut and bleeding if you are not careful. You need to remove any damaged leaves and cut the ends off the rest of the leaves. You then cut off the top of the artichoke, just lay the artichoke on its side and cut it down about three quarters of an inch. This next step is important. Take the artichoke by the bottom and slam the whole choke top down on your cutting board. Oh, by the way, this writer uses a wooden cutting board. Sometimes you will need to slam it more than once to help it open up, then use your hand to stretch it open.
Fill your kitchen sink with water and throw the artichoke in there while you cut and trim the remaining artichokes.
Set out a large plate and get your flavored bread crumbs. Have several large Dutch ovens available to put the stuffed artichokes in. Place your first artichoke on the plate and pour bread crumbs over it, shake it and stretch the leaves and pour more breadcrumbs, keep stretching and pouring until no more will fit. Be sure to pull all the leaves out even the outside ones. Place the artichoke in the pan. Add enough to make a nice tight fit. Pour olive oil slowly over the artichokes to set the crumbs. Now slowly fill the pan to within and inch of the top of the artichokes with water being sure to gently pour water over top the artichokes.
Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and cover. Cook for about forty five minutes checking periodically and using a spoon to pour the water over the artichokes.
Use a slotted spoon to remove. Eat and enjoy. You remove one leave at a time and scrape the crumbs and the meat off with your teeth. You will know your artichoke is perfectly cooked when there are no dry crumbs, all of them should be moist. When you get to the hairy part, stop. Dig out the heart and enjoy this delicacy.
This is not the only way to cook artichokes, but in our family, it is the only way we like.