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Thursday, April 26, 2012 04:15 pm

Carciofi alla Giudea

(Artichokes in the style of Roman Jews)

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My favorite artichoke recipe appeared in my 11/3/11 IT column, available at illinoistimes.com. It’s a New Orleans variation of Italian stuffed artichokes that adds shrimp to the traditional breadcrumbs/Parmesan/garlic preparation.

That Creole recipe is my favorite, but there are many other fresh artichoke recipes I love. Baby artichokes can be eaten raw, thinly sliced for a salad. After being cooked, artichokes are wonderful eaten hot with garlic butter or a simple marinara, or cold with sauces such as the remoulade or hazelnut romesco served at my daughter’s recent wedding dinner (both also available on IT’s website).

This is one of the most famous Italian artichoke preparations, and is certainly the best-known Roman – not just Jewish Roman – artichoke recipe. Originating in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, it dates back hundreds – maybe even thousands – of years. In Italy these are made with small Romanesco artichokes. It involves a twice-frying technique similar to that for French fries. While some recipes call for frying in extra virgin olive oil, I think cheaper pomace olive oil works just as well here.

  • 1 “baby” artichoke per person, or more if desired, preferably with at least a couple inches of stem.
  • 1 or more lemons, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Olive oil for frying – to at least a depth of 4 inches in a broad, deep pot
  • Kosher salt

Prepare the artichokes by cutting a half inch or so off the tips of the leaves, rubbing with a cut lemon half as you go. Spread the center leaves apart and scoop out the hairy choke with a spoon or melon baller. (If the hairy chokes haven’t developed, this step isn’t necessary.) As you finish each artichoke, place it in a bowl of water that has had lemon juice added to it.

Heat the oil in the pot to 300°. Add the artichokes (do this in batches if necessary, depending on the pot’s size) and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the artichokes from the pan and turn them upside on paper toweling to drain. The artichokes can be made ahead to this point and held for up to several hours before the final frying.

Now heat the oil (adding more if necessary to bring it to the appropriate depth) to 350°. Put an artichoke into the pot. With metal tongs, place the cut side of the artichoke on the bottom of the pot. Still holding it with the tongs in one hand, press it down firmly with a metal spatula in the other hand so that the leaves splay out. Hold it there for a couple of minutes until it begins to brown, then release it, repeating the process with the remaining artichokes, and removing them as the bottoms have become completely cooked through (a knife should pierce through them easily) and the leaves crispy.

Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon wedges.

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