Artichokes open up like flowers and become crisp at the edges but stay tender in the middle when pressed with a heavy brick. First you will need to trim them down to their hearts, and then poach them in a simple court bouillon, which can be done ahead of time. They sometimes break into pieces when pressed, but that’s part of their charm.
In a 6-qt. pot, combine 6 cups water, the wine, celery, onion, bay leaf, thyme, if using, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until aromatic, about 15 minutes. Stir in the salt.
Meanwhile, prep the artichokes. When all the artichokes are trimmed, gently drop them (and the stems) into the court bouillon. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat until the tip of a knife inserted near the base of the artichoke meets little resistance, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the artichokes cool in their liquid for at least 20 minutes. (The artichokes can be refrigerated in their cooking liquid for up to 1 day.) Drain before using.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Tightly wrap a brick in 2 layers of aluminum foil, and place in the oven to heat up, about 30 minutes. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat, and add the oil. Using paper towels, pat the artichokes dry, and place them in the skillet with the heart down and the stem-end up. Add the poached stems to the pan, and add the garlic cloves. Place the hot brick on top of the artichokes, pressing down until they flatten slightly. If some of them split open, that’s okay. As they cook, the artichokes will brown at the edges; move the brick around to evenly press on all the artichokes. Cook until deep golden brown on the leaves and bottoms, about 8 minutes, then turn. Brown the base of each artichoke, about 5 minutes more. Serve the artichokes and stems with the garlic cloves and lemon wedges.
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