Italians love their artichokes in a thousand ways, and stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs is a favorite. This recipe is an Italian American rendition, much richer and with more stuffing and ingredients than the one found in Italy. It was often an appetizer item on the menu of Italian American restaurants in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and most likely the first way that many Americans tasted artichokes Italian-style. And I am sure the charm of it was the discovery of how to eat this curious thistle with not much pulp but lots of flavor.
Juice from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 lemon
6 large artichokes
1½ cups fine dry bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
½ cup toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
⅛ teaspoon peperoncino flakes
To clean and prepare the artichokes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Zest one of the lemons and set aside.
Fill a bowl with approximately one quart of cold water, and add the juice of one lemon, plus the squeezed-out lemon halves.
Peel and trim the stem of the first artichoke. Pull off any tough outer leaves and discard. Using a paring knife, trim away any tough parts around the base and stem of the artichoke. With a serrated knife, cut off the top third of the artichoke and discard.
Once you have cut off the top third with a serrated knife, push the leaves out to expose the fuzzy purple choke. With a small spoon, scrape out the choke to expose the heart at the bottom of the artichoke. Put the prepared artichoke in the bowl of water and lemon juice to keep it fresh.
Mix together the bread crumbs, grated cheese, and pine nuts in a bowl. Stir in ½ cup of the parsley, ½ cup of the olive oil, the eggs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the reserved lemon zest. Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened with the olive oil.
Remove the cleaned artichokes from the water, and drain them upside down on a kitchen towel. Spread the leaves of an artichoke open, and fill the center with stuffing. Continue to work outward, sprinkling and packing stuffing into the rows of leaves as you separate them. Put the artichoke in a baking dish that will hold all six snugly. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.
Pour the wine and 1 cup water around the artichokes in the baking dish, and add the lemon juice and artichoke stems. Season the liquid with the remaining salt and the peperoncino. Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the artichokes. Tent the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the artichokes are tender all the way through and the crumbs are browned and crusty, about 20 to 30 minutes more (depending on the size and toughness of your artichokes). If the cooking juices are too thin, pour them into a small pot and boil for a few minutes to reduce. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley. Serve the artichokes in shallow soup plates, topped with the cooking juices.