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Fried Artichokes with Lemon

Here, small, tender artichokes are lightly cloaked in bread crumbs before they are fried, yielding a crisp result. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice lifts the sweet artichoke flavor. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons 
  • 12 baby artichokes with stems 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste  
  • 2 cups plain fine dried bread crumbs 
  • Olive oil for frying 

Directions:

Fill a large bowl three-fourths full with cold water. Cut 1 lemon in half and squeeze the juice of both halves into the water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the top 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the leaves with a paring knife to remove the prickly tips. Pull off all the tough, dark green outer leaves until you reach the tender, pale inner leaves. Cut a thin slice off the base of the stem, then peel off the tough, dark outer flesh around the base of the leaves and along the length of the stem, leaving the stem attached. Cut the artichoke in half or quarters lengthwise, and then cut out the fuzzy choke, if any, at the base of the leaves. Drop the wedges into the lemon water. Repeat with the remaining artichokes. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Drain the artichokes and pat dry on paper towels. In a shallow bowl, beat together the eggs and cheese until blended, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the bread crumbs on a plate. One at a time, dip the artichoke pieces into the egg mixture, and then roll them in the bread crumbs. As the pieces are coated, place them on a wire rack. When all the pieces are coated, let them dry for 15 minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 200°F. Pour the olive oil to a depth of 1 inch into a deep, heavy fry pan and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set it next to the stove.

When the oil is ready, add a few artichoke pieces, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry the pieces, turning them once or twice, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes to the prepared baking sheet and place it in the oven to keep warm. Fry the remaining artichoke pieces in the same way, allowing the oil to return to the original frying temperature before adding the next batch.

Cut the remaining lemon into wedges. Arrange the artichokes on a platter, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately with the lemon wedges. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).