Crispy, Fried Spring Artichokes, Lemon, Oregano

Savory Recipes, Spring • 2 Jun 2013

Artichokes are stubborn, prickly beings; tight lipped and tense, the feminine floral center sheathed by layers of stiff shell-like leaves. Beneath the starched, thorny petticoat is a hairy mess, poetically encasing a tender, fleshy, succulent heart.

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Undressing a choke is a somewhat intimidating endeavor: wrangling the fibrous, sharp-tipped leaves, dissecting the uncouth, furry center. Steaming an artichoke is the simplest manner of preparation, for which the body and soul remain intact. To sauté, bake or fry, stripping the scales can be tedious yet gracefully accomplished with a quick hand and a sharp knife.

I fry my pruned globes in a Romanesque style; though not whole in the traditional fashion since I do not have a deep-fryer. I break down the vegetables quickly yet methodically, peeling and discarding the austere, unsupple armor. I peel and shuck, all the way down to the gossamer-thin inner leaves, soft as lamb’s ears. I remove a delicate layer of fiber from the stems and slice the chokes in half, revealing ethereal crimson petals. After artfully carving away the fur and colorful center, cutting the halves into quarters and then further into slices, the artichoke is suitable for cast-iron frying.

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Golden brown and tender morsels result, earthy and salty and dappled with a spray of lemon, flecked with minty, peppery oregano picked from the soil. Each bite is crispy and nutty, its artichoke flavor intact, its flesh kissed by searing oil: a simple tribute to an intricate spring vegetable.

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Crispy, Fried Spring Artichokes, Lemon, Oregano

3 large artichokes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped, plus a few for garnish

1. Zest and juice the first lemon. Set aside both the zest and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the remaining lemon. Squeeze the second lemon into the water. Discard the lemon halves.

2. Cut off about 1-inch from the top of each artichoke. Peel back outer leaves until they snap off at the base. Keep peeling leaves until reaching the soft, inner leaves. Trim and clean up the base of the artichoke with a paring knife.

3. Trim about 1/4-inch off the bottom of the stem and peel the sides of the stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

4. Slice each artichoke in half and cut out the choke (the purple leaves and the fur). Cut each artichoke half into 1/2-inch slices, further trimming or peeling any fibrous leaves if necessary.

5. While working on the remaining artichokes, place the cut artichokes in the lemon water.

6. Before frying, drain artichokes on paper towels or a kitchen cloth and pat dry. In another large bowl, toss the artichokes with black pepper and lemon zest.

7. Heat olive oil in a 9-inch cast-iron pan over high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add the first batch of artichokes to the pan, cooking for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Transfer cooked artichokes to a bowl and toss with salt, lemon juice and oregano. Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as an appetizer or snack.

One Response

  1. matt

    This looks good! I am going to try this recipe.

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