Beer Batter Fried Artichoke Hearts – Carciofi Fritti

Italians love artichokes. A walk around Radicondoli reveals the extent of the love affair in my own village–nearly every garden has a dedicated artichoke patch. By the first of May, everyone is eating them several times a week–boiled, steamed, battered and fried, cooked Roman style head down in olive oil, baked into a savory tart, tossed with pasta or scattered atop  pizza, dipped raw  in pinzimonio (olive oil, salt and pepper), tossed with parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice as a salad and finally, as the season comes to a close, sott’olio–marinated in vinegar and oil–thus sustaining artichoke heaven several months into winter, until the last jar from the cantina is empty. Then we just start waiting for Spring again, and the next crop.

I have a serious weakness for fried artichoke hearts.  There is simply nothing quite like beginning your meal with carciofi fritti, washed down with a nice cold glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Here is how a woman in the village taught me to make them:

Carciofi Fritti – Fried Artichoke Hearts

Appetizer sized portions for 4 people

Ingredients:

6 medium sized fresh artichokes–they should be hard when you squeeze them.

2 lemons

1 cups flour – half for dredging, half for the batter

2 eggs

½ cup beer

salt

peanut or sunflower seed oil for frying

Instructions:

  • Heat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit and place an oven proof dish large enough for the artichokes inside to warm.
  • Fill a large bowl ⅔ up with cold water and squeeze one lemon into the water.
  • Trim the artichokes*, quarter them into wedges, then cut the quarters in half and place them immediately into a bath of water and lemon juice (this is to keep them from turning brown at the cut edges).
  • Pour half cup of flour into a large bowl, drain the artichokes in a colander and toss them around in the flour so they are all lightly coated.
  • Heat the oil, at least 1” deep in a wide pan suitable for frying.
  • While the oil is heating, make a batter of 2 eggs, ½ cup beer, a pinch of salt and ½ cup flour.
  • The oil is the right temperature when a drop of the batter dances and sizzles in it. At this point, dip the artichoke wedges one by one into the batter and place into the hot oil to fry. Fry until golden on both sides, turning them half-way through the cooking.
  • Place a double layer of paper towels in the oven proof dish, and as the artichokes are cooked, transfer them into the dish in the oven. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle with fine sea salt. When all the artichokes are battered and fried, turn the temperature down to 200 F and leave them warming in the oven for another hour or so until it’s time to serve them.

 *To trim the artichokes, snap off all the tough outer leaves until you reach the tender ones in the center. Then using a sharp knife, cut off the top third of the artichoke and discard. Next, cut off the stem of the artichoke, leaving an inch or two remaining. Pare the tough green or purple flesh from the base of the artichoke with a sharp knife, so that all the remains is tender and light green in color. Cut artichoke into quarters, remove the furry center from the heart of the choke, then cut the quarters in half. Immediately place them into the lemon water bath to keep the fresh light green color intact.

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