I grant that, being predatory, much of the pleasure of eating a whole artichoke is tactile: the relentless plucking of exposed petals round and round from the outside in, scraping each leaf clean of its clinging flesh before casting it off, licking fingers along the way for stray bits of flesh, circling slowly but surely in on the prize heart at the bottom of it all, at last devoured in a well earned mouthful.
These are the pleasures, at any rate, of eating the medium sized artichokes that my mother stuffs with breading. The large mammola artichokes that the Romans famously steam upside down with garlic and herbs are best pared down to their edible cores, since they are large enough to offer satisfaction while the pared away parts being tough and bland do not, even after a garlic and oil treatment. At the opposite extreme are the little artichokes, which in Rome in are so young and tender in early spring that they can be eaten whole and raw, tiny chokes and all; but when not to be found as young and fresh as that, they are good roasted, with garlic and oil, as ever.
Chop your artichoke stem-cores finely and add them to the breadcrumbs. For each choke, add a small clove of garlic chopped very finely. Add lots of chopped fresh parsley together with grindings of black pepper. Then drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over all and mix it all together well. If the crumbs don’t start to cluster a bit, mix in more oil until they do. You want a moist, light, mealy sort of mixture you can take up with a fork.
* Trim each artichoke thus: pull away outer leaves toughened by age or misfortune; slice off (but save) its stem, to give it a flat bottom to sit upright upon; slice off its pointy head, to remove the prickly points of its leaves, leaving it with a flat top. Put the trimmed chokes in a bath of lemon water.
* Prepare the stuffing thus: for each artichoke, measure out 3 tablespoons of seasoned bread crumbs, 1 mounded tablespoon of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and a clove of garlic chopped fine. To this mound of seasoned breadcrumbs, add much freshly chopped parsley and many fresh grindings of black pepper. Then cut out the white core of each artichoke stem, chop it finely, and add it to the breading. Wth a fork mix in just enough extra virgin olive oil to the breading to make it mealy but still fluffy.
* Now stuff each artichoke thus: spiraling from outer leaves to inner, grab the artichoke with your left hand and use your left thumb to pull inner leaves inward and out of the way, while with your right hand you use a fork to pick up some breading and wedge it into the base of the leaf being stuffed. Continue stuffing spirally, leaf by leaf, to the center. When you tire, remember that you're being loving.
* As you go, arrange the stuffed artichokes snugly in a pot. Wedge bit wedges of peeled potatoes in between the artichokes.
* Now put a pot of water to boil, and a pan of light olive oil to heat (perhaps a tablespoon of oil per artichoke). Add several whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed or scored, to the heating oil. When the cloves sizzle, tip the pan to float them in the oil. As soon as they color and sweeten, pour out the pan of garlicky oil evenly all over the artichokes in the pot. Sprinkle the artichokes evenly all over with salt and fresh grindings of black pepper.
* Put the pot of artichokes over medium heat, covered, to heat up, and sweat, and sizzle. When they smell good and look pretty, pour boiling water into the pot to come barely half way up the stuffed artichokes. Easy does it -- you don't want to wash your stuffing out of your artichokes! Perhaps add a bay leaf, if per chance you have one.
* Leaving the cover barely ajar, cook the artichokes until the hearts yield tenderly to a probing fork, perhaps 30, perhaps 40, even 50 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let them cool down to warm, so that that they can be eaten by hand.
* Eat thus: from the outside in, spirally, pull off each leaf and with your top teeth scrape off its clinging artichoke flesh together with its lovingly stuffed breading. I recommend you pile up your scraped leaves neatly on the side of your plate. When you get to the heart at the bottom of things, scrape away all its hairy choke with a knife or fork, and then engulf the heart of the thing, albeit lovingly.
* Eat the potatoes whenever and however you please.
Braised with Potatoes
* Add an abundant allowance of chopped garlic to an expansive pool of olive oil. Turn up the heat to medium, and sauté just until the garlic blushes golden.
* Off heat, add the drained hearts and potatoes, with a generous sprinkling of salt. Cover the pan , return to the heat, and sweat the hearts and potatoes, with a flip or two in between, until they glisten with the oil.
* Sprinkle the hearts and potatoes with a generous pile of freshly chopped Italian parsley and grindings all over of black pepper. Flip and fold to mix.
* Now add either boiling water, chicken broth, or both (I like half 'n half), to half way up the hearts and potatoes. Bring the liquids to a lively simmer before flipping the hearts and potatoes in them.
* Bring the pan down to a gentle but still steady simmer, put the cover on ajar, and cook until the potatoes are soft. Correct for salt and pepper, needless to say.