Louisiana Crab-Stuffed Artichoke

by George Graham

Louisiana Crabmeat Stuffed Artichoke Recipe - Lafayette, Louisiana

Louisiana Crabmeat Stuffed Artichoke. (All photos credit: George Graham)

When I saw the large artichokes stacked high at my green grocer I knew in an instant what would be the perfect starter for Sunday night’s dinner party.  It was time to get stuffing.

Though hardly Cajun, globe artichokes are actually a cultivated variety of thistle.  But, in the hands of an adventurous cook, the clean crisp flavor of an artichoke is the perfect vessel for culinary exploration.  In Louisiana, stuffing artichokes is a uniquely New Orleans thing.  At the close of the 1800s, boatloads of Sicilians came into the city and coastal South Louisiana along with many immigrants from Catholic Mediterranean countries.  They brought their customs and beliefs along with a treasure trove of recipes.  While the artichoke is not typically known as a French Acadian delicacy, it has found its way into the playbook of many cooks with unique variations on the stuffing.

The thought process behind this recipe is straightforward; take an ordinary artichoke and make it colorful and festive with Louisiana Blue Crab.  Gary Bauer’s Pontchartrain Blue Crab in Slidell, Louisiana is the source of some of the tastiest lump crabmeat around.  He fishes the waters of Lake Borgne and picks from only the sweetest “blues” around.  Fresh, salty Louisiana blue crab, fragrant extra virgin olive oil combined with garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and herbs nestled among the leaves of the perfect artichoke – this is a no-brainer.

Artichokes - Lafayette, Louisiana

Artichokes at the market

Louisiana Crabmeat Stuffed Artichoke
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2

My recipe is for one artichoke, but I suggest making several because they will go fast and are just as good – or maybe even better – days later.  In addition to the fresh Louisiana crab, two keys to this appetizer are sourcing quality, exceptionally large artichokes and using lots of herbaceous extra virgin olive oil.  Also, be sure to let the stuffed artichoke sit for a while, if not overnight, before serving to distribute the flavors within the leaves.

1 large artichoke
Salted water
2 lemons, divided
2 cups of finely ground unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons diced olives
Dash of hot sauce
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup lump Louisiana crabmeat

Preheat oven to 400º F.

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 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.  Reduce 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 into the mixing bowl.  Slowly drizzle olive oil 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 it down too much.

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 in a 400º F oven for 15 minutes or so — until browned on top.  Let sit for 1 hour minimum before serving.

It’s good hot or at room temperature and just as good cold the next day.

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