There would only be 2 good reasons why I would move back to California. Well…truthfully, there probably are 4,098 reasons why I LOVED living in California, but only 2 of those reasons are valid at 1:15 a.m. when I’m absolutely craving something munchy, something savory, something a little crisp, something that goes great with a nice, cold beer. Fried Baby Artichokes is one of those reasons. (I’ll write the other reason, , in another post)
In San Francisco, I would frequent a Spanish Tapas restaurant called Esperpento, where they had a dish called Alcachofas a la Plancha – which translates to “an artichoke dish that gives you midnight cravings that Godiva chocolate cannot even cure.”
Well, as of today, I now only have 1 good reason left to move back to California (sorry Mr. Arnold Schwarzen-gold-digger) because I’ve just re-created that dish even better than I remember it to taste!
Artichokes are in season now until end of May – the baby artichokes are so tender and sweet. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about the vicious choke stabbing at your throat – the baby artichoke is almost all edible. Just snap away the outer leaves until you reach the light, pale colored leaves. The choke is actually very soft and fuzzy – totally edible.
Ok, a correction– according to the bible, McGee’s On Food and Cooking, the little artichokes are not babies at all. They are fully grown adult artichokes that are grown close to the ground and not on the main stalk. Therefore, they grow slowwwwlllllyy and their chokes do not develop. But what the heck, I like the sound of “Baby Artichokes” much better than “Malnourished Under-Achieving Chokes.”
I pan fry them in olive oil and garlic until the leaves are charred little wisps that gave a nice, satisfying crunch. Please try these while your supermarket or farmer’s market has them fresh!
Have your bowl with lemon/water ready. Snap off the outer layers of the leaves until you get to smooth, light pale green leaves.
With sharp paring knife again, peel the dark green layer off the stem. Also cut off the top 1″ of the artichoke.
Now, with top of the artichoke facing down against the cutting board, cut the artichoke into thin 1/4″ slices. Place slices in lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
The artichokes should be no larger than 3" wide. Any bigger than that I wouldn't consider them babies - I'd probably call them big mamma runts with pokey chokey chokes.
Important Note - if you don't cook the artichokes long enough, they will taste bitter. So make sure that you only have 1 layer of artichokes in the pan at a time. Make sure that you cook them through. The best way to judge? Snag a piece and taste! They should be tender at the heart, and charred-crisp at the edge.
In a large skillet, put enough olive oil to at least cover the bottom of the pan. Let the olive oil heat up over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add only enough artichoke slices to make 1 layer in the pan (you may have to do this in a couple of batches). You don't want to overcrowd the pan, otherwise the artichokes will steam, not fry.
Fry the artichokes until the edges are a little charred and crispy, about 5 minutes, flipping over once. Repeat with remaining.
Top with a sprinkling of kosher salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Here are other great dishes to go with your Fried Baby Artichokes: