After Holiday season there’s one thing we particularly look forward to eating and that’s fried artichoke hearts (carciofi fritti). Everyone in Italy seems to be making artichokes on social right now. And well, it’s because artichokes are literally everywhere.
Artichoke Season in the Northern Hemisphere
Artichoke season in the northern hemisphere is from February to May. In Calabria, there is a fruttivendolo who drives by the house at least 4x a week and the only thing he sells from early February to late April is artichokes. It’s currently our favorite truck and he gets flagged down every 3 houses or so.
Artichokes in Calabria
In Calabria, the artichokes are usually between 3″ – 5″ wide on all sides. Some can be more narrow and long ad others more wide depending on the variety. The wide ones are best for stuffing. They’re all fabulous for roasting and frying. Our particular favorite is carciofi fritti (fried artichoke hearts) because in Calabria everything is better fried!
Fried Artichoke Hearts: A Difficult Recipe to Capture
This recipe for carciofi fritti belongs to Lina and took 1.5 months to write because it’s very challenging to slide a scale under the bowl and collect correct measurements when watching her cook. When I asked her how much flour she uses the first time I watched her make this she responded ‘7 big spoonfuls’ (LOL). The rest of the instructions were ‘until it looks good’ or ‘until the batter covers the artichoke’. Perfect units of measurements for someone who has been cooking the same dish for 40 years. Not ideal for new cooks who might end up with pancakes instead of crispy fried artichoke hearts.
Boil the Artichoke Hearts First
This recipe requires the boiling of the artichokes before frying. This is to ensure they are cooked through. Don’t skip this step unless you’ve made this before and want the artichokes to be much harder throughout. After each chop rub the end with lemon or the artichoke will change color to a dark brown. Be sure to place freshly trimmed artichokes in lemon water and properly salt boiling water for optimal results!
The Key to Crispy Fried Artichoke Hearts
Lina says the key to beautiful carciofi fritti is making sure the batter is thick enough to coat the artichokes. The batter should be about the consistency of very thick pancake batter and really stick to the artichoke. She uses a method where she cups the artichoke with a spoon, then adds more batter on top before adding it to the fryer. Lina delicately drops the artichoke into the oil without allowing the spoon to touch the oil and make a mess.
We almost exclusively fry with extra virgin olive oil, however, it’s not required for this recipe. Use your preferred frying and/or cooking oil.
Depending on the type of pot/pan you’re using and the temperature of your oil the artichoke may cook more/less quickly. The artichoke should be lightly brown on each side and have cooked for at least 2 mins in order to esure the consistency inside is nice. If they’re cooking faster than that turn down the heat slightly.
Frying with Olive Oil
If frying with olive oil be mindful of the heat. Olive oil cannot be on high heat when frying or it will smoke. Medium or medium-high is usually the best setting. Adjust accordingly. Practice makes perfect!
Ingredients For Boiling
- 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp. salt
- Turi extra virgin olive oil (or other preferred cooking oil)
- 500g artichoke hearts, plus stems if desired (approx. 5 medium artichokes after trimmed)
- 250g flour
- 250g water (room temp.)
- 10g finely grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1 medium egg
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 2 pinches salt
Instructions For Boiling
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling add salt.
- Squeeze half a lemon into a large bowl and then fill with water. Keep the other half close by the cutting board.
- Chop off the bottom 1/2″ of the artichoke stem. Rub with lemon. Then chop off the entire stem from the ‘flower’. Rub artichoke bottom and stem with lemon. Chop the stem into 2 or 3 pieces if you think it’s too long. Be sure to rub with lemon after each cut. Place in lemon water.
- Now that the bottom is chopped off begin to pull the hard leaves off the artichoke. With a small, short knife in hand pull the leaves down and off the artichoke. With the stem removed this should be quite easy. Repeat this action on all sides, taking off at least 3 to 4 ‘layers’ of leaves (or more). The leaves should start to feel softer. Rub any expose sides with lemon. Do not be stingy about cutting off ‘too much’. You run the risk of chewy, stringy, watery, and overly dense carciofi fritti which is no fun!
- Lay the artichoke on its side and chop off the top 1/2″ with a large sharp knife. The goal is to remove the top spikey portions of the artichoke. Chop off more if desired. Rub with lemon.
- Lay the artichoke on it’s side and cut it in half lengthwise. Place each half on the cutting board lengthwise and chop in quadrants or thirds. The pieces should be approx. 3/4″ thick and up to 2″ tall. Remove any extra undesirable hard leaves and place in lemon water immediately.
- Rinse artichokes and then add to boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove artichokes and place in a strainer or other place space to dry and cool for approx. 10 – 20 mins.
- Proceed with recipe below.
Instructions for Frying
- Add the flour to a large bowl. Make a hole and add the egg. Then add the water, parmigiano, salt, and pepper.
- Stir, making sure there aren’t any lumps. Note: The consistency should match a thick pancake batter. Add a small spoonful of more flour if too watery. Add a small spoonful of water if too thick. This recipe is flexible.
- Heat a large pan on medium-low or medium heat with 1/2″ – 3/4″ preferred cooking oil (extra virgin olive oil, sunflower, or corn oil work well).
- While the oil is heating fold in the artichokes to the batter.
- Test the oil is hot with a little flour and then carefully add each artichoke. It should sizzle on all sides and slightly bubble.
- Once the artichokes are light brown flip (approx. 2 minutes). If artichokes are browning more quickly then this slightly reduce heat, you want the consistency to be even inside.
- Cook until light golden on both sides (approx. 4 minutes total).
- Remove and place on plate/tray with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt if desired.
- Serve immediately.