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Sausage-Stuffed Artichokes

Sausage-Stuffed Artichokes
Susan Russo for NPR /

Artichokes have an affinity for pork, including sausage, pancetta, bacon and prosciutto. This filling is made with hot Italian sausage that can be found at Italian delis and most major supermarkets. Olive oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes and fragrant herbs make this otherwise humble filling shine. Remember, the larger the artichoke, the longer the cooking time.

Makes 2 artichokes

2 globe artichokes, about 1 pound each

1 lemon, cut in half (for rubbing the artichoke)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, diced (about 1/8 cup)

1/4 pound hot Italian sausage

1/4 cup oil-oiled soaked sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and diced

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

1 tablespoon fresh minced basil

Salt, to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the cooking pot

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

Place an artichoke on a cutting board and cut off the stem. Using a sharp knife, remove the fibrous outer part of the stem and discard. Cut the remaining center of the stem into long, thin strips, then dice. Place in a large skillet with 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, remove sausage from its casing and break apart with your hands. Add to the skillet with the artichoke stems. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage and shallots are lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and cook 1to 2 minutes more, until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted and the sausage is fully cooked. Add fresh herbs, and season generously with salt. Turn off the heat, and slowly stir in the cheese, so it will melt evenly. Place the filling in a bowl and set aside.

To clean the artichokes, cut off about 1 inch from the top of the artichoke and discard. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim off the tips of the remaining leaves, until they are straight across. Rub the leaves all over with a lemon half.

Using your thumbs, gently separate the leaves (the fresher the artichoke, the tighter the leaves). Pull out the purple-tipped, pointy leaves from the center and several surrounding yellow leaves until you reach the fuzzy choke. Using a small spoon, scoop out the choke until the cavity is smooth. Then squeeze some lemon juice inside the cavity to keep it from oxidizing, or turning brown. Repeat with second artichoke.

To stuff the artichokes, fill each cavity with half of the sausage stuffing, gently patting it down with your hand. Some of the breadcrumbs will fall on the leaves, which is just fine.

To cook the artichokes, use a large, deep saucepan and fill it with 3 inches of water. Add a whole sliced lemon and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the water. Place stuffed artichokes in the pan close together so they remain upright. Drizzle each with one teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Cover tightly with a lid and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Then lower the heat to a simmer, keeping the pan partially covered, and cook for 40 to 60 minutes, or until leaves are tender.

To check for doneness, try pulling a leaf from the artichoke. It should come out easily. Too much tugging means it needs to cook more. You can also insert a long, thin knife into the center of the artichoke; it should easily go through to the heart. Lift the knife straight out so you don't cut the heart.

Transfer cooked artichokes to a large plate or shallow bowl and let cool for 5 minutes before eating. Artichokes can also be kept warm by loosely covering with foil and eating within 15 to 20 minutes.

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