Louisiana Crab-Stuffed Artichoke
by 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 stuffin’.
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.
Louisiana Crabmeat Stuffed Artichoke
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Tip: 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
2 cups of finely ground 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
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup quality extra virgin olive oil
1 cup lump Louisiana crabmeat
More extra virgin olive oil
Slice the stem portion off at the bottom so that the artichoke will stand vertically. Cut off the top inch of the artichoke and use scissors to trim the points off the leaves.
Submerge the artichoke into salted boiling water. Slice the lemon in halves and squeeze into the pot to keep the artichoke from discoloring. Cook until tender but not falling apart (leaves should pull out, and a knife should easily pierce the bottom). Remove from the hot water and quickly submerge into ice-cold water for five minutes as an added means to preserve color. Remove and drain.
In a bowl, add the breadcrumb base making sure that all crumbs are extremely small and granular. Mix in all the ingredients except the olive oil and crabmeat. Squeeze half the lemon and slowly drizzle olive oil while stirring to achieve a wet consistency (add more if needed). 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 olive oil, squeeze remaining half of lemon, sprinkle on more of the cheese and bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes or so — until browned on top. Let it sit for an hour minimum or overnight.
It’s good hot or at room temperature and even better cold the next day.
Crack open a bottle of red — my friend Alison suggests a Pride Cabernet from Napa — and enjoy this crab-stuffed thistle as you wet your whistle.