Fried artichokes, one of the many gems of Roman-Jewish cuisine. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
Deep-fried artichokes may be one of the best examples of the Roman-Jewish mastery of deep frying techniques. Shatteringly crisp outside, tender within, and as pop-able as potato chips, this is the way we all should usher in spring.
Why this recipe works:
Note: Olive oil is more traditional, and will give more of the characteristic Mediterranean flavor, whereas neutral oils like vegetable or canola oil will let more of the pure artichoke flavor shine through.
Fill a large bowl with water; halve and squeeze 2 lemons into it. Trim artichokes following Roman-Jewish artichoke guidelines shown here: Remove tough dark green outer leaves to expose more tender light-green leaves within, then, using a paring knife, cut off top half of each leaf and trim base and stem. Trimmed artichokes will look like a closed rosebud. Transfer the peeled artichokes to the bowl of lemon water as you work, covering them with a clean kitchen towel to keep them completely submerged.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 280°F. Add artichokes (they should produce a steady but non-violent stream of bubbles) and cook until tender (you should be able to pierce their hearts easily with a fork), adjusting heat to maintain a steady bubble, about 10 minutes for baby artichokes and 15 minutes for larger ones. Turn larger artichokes frequently for even cooking.
Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer artichokes to a paper towel-line plate. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Using your hands, gently pull open each artichoke “bud” so that it resembles an open flower. If using large artichokes, remove and discard the hair “choke” in the center of the artichoke. Increase oil temperature to 350°F.
Fry artichokes until browned and crisp, 2 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season immediately with salt. Transfer to plates and serve right away with wedges of remaining lemon.