I only saw my extended family, a turbulent crew of New York-based Italian-Americans, once or twice a year, at Christmas or other holidays. No matter the season, these were always on the menu. Back then we each got our own, but one artichoke is really enough for two or more people. You can adjust the filling a bit to taste, but my grandmother once added raisins, which was probably her own Sicilian flair, and I remember feeling that this ruined the dish, and in fact, the entire meal. Simple is best.
1 3/4 cups plain breadcrumbs
5 ounces pecorino Romano, freshly grated
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
3 fresh artichokes
1 lemon, cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
In a large bowl, add breadcrumbs, pecorino Romano, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.
Cut off stems of artichokes flush with base, so they can sit flat on their bottoms. Remove any irregular bottom leaves. Cut off about 1/4 of top, so artichokes are flat on top. Rinse insides and outsides and shake dry. Use your fingers to pry open leaves as much as possible, so there is space between each leaf. Rub outsides of each artichoke with cut surface of a lemon, and squeeze some juice over tops and into leaves (just a little bit).
Working over another large bowl, use a small spoon to distribute filling into and between all leaves of artichoke. Fill as many leaves as you can. (There will not be any leaves in very center.) Brush/shake off extra filling into bowl as you work.
When all artichokes are filled, place a steamer basket in bottom of a pot large enough to hold all artichokes, and with a tight-fitting lid. Add water to bottom of pot (do not allow into basket), and place artichokes on steamer basket. Drizzle tops of artichokes with olive oil and cover pot.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Steam artichokes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until you can easily pierce through artichoke down to steamer basket.
Remove artichokes and transfer to a serving platter. To eat, remove each leaf and scrape off filling and bottom bit of each leaf. As you work your way inside each artichoke, you will be able to eat most of or entirety of leaves, as inner leaves are thinner and more tender. When all leaves are removed, pull out pointy innermost leaves andfurry choke to expose heart. Eat heart plain or with olive oil.
cook’s note: Choose artichokes that are free of black spots, with tightly closed leaves (even though this means it will be a bit harder to stuff). There should be enough filling for 3, but it may be scanty or there may be leftover, depending on size of each artichoke and how thorough you are in stuffing.