Classically-trained chef Anthony Strong flawlessly creates carciofi alla giudia, or "Jewish-Style Artichokes," at Locanda. Often confused with "Jerusalem Artichokes," a marketing label for the root tuber sunchoke, the dish is instead a tribute to the fried artichoke served in Rome's Jewish ghettos.
"It's got everything you want in a dish," Chef Strong says. "Crispy on the outside, meaty and creamy on the inside, salty, peppery -- and acid from the lemon."
A fried artichoke -- a seemingly simple dish, right? Not entirely. Strong's preparation incorporates techniques learned from researching in Italy prior to opening up Locanda: "In Rome, most were just fried in olive oil, but the best ones were poached first. They'd just dump the artichoke in leftover pasta water," he says. Strong substitutes a wine-based poaching liquid, infusing the artichoke with what can only be described as pure magic. He then follows by plunging the artichoke in-and-out of hot oil until the flower blossoms.
The presentation is beautiful in its simplicity: a golden-brown deep-fried artichoke garnished with a julienne of mint and a wedge of lemon served on a paper-lined plate -- that's it. No ketchup. No aioli. Niente. The sprinkling of fresh-ground black pepper crosses the line of purism, Strong boldly proclaims.
The consumption of the dish provides a unique and intimate dining experience as you and your dining companion(s) tear at the beautifully flowered artichoke, leaf by leaf. When you reach the heart, you'll be in love.
5 cups rice bran oil (can also use grapeseed or peanut oil)
4 quarts water
1.5 liter bottle of a dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
1 garlic head split in half horizontally with root-down
1 lemon peel
1 lemon, juiced
4 dried Arbol chile pods
½ cup Coriander Seeds
½ cup Whole Peppercorns
3 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons julienned mint
2 tablespoons minced nepitella (optional)
Wedge of lemon
Step 1: Prepare the artichokes
Remove leaves around the base of the artichoke near the stem. Continue to remove
leaves just until you start to see a pale, yellow/green color. Cut off a ¼'' off the
bottom of the stem, and use a pairing knife or vegetable peeler to get to the core of
the stem. Cut off the top 1/3rd of the artichoke, and remove the center of the flower
with a spoon.
Step 2: Poach the artichokes
Fill a large pot with water and wine. Add the rest of the ingredients for the artichoke
broth and let mixture simmer. After 15 minutes, add artichokes and poach for
another 15 minutes, or just until the artichokes are easily pierced with a fork. You can cut off a bit of the stem to test--you don't want it too firm. Drain the artichokes on a
plate or baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Step 3: Fry the artichokes
Add oil to a medium saucepan and bring to 360F. Stand the cut artichoke on a flat surface flower side down. Stick a fork perpendicularly through the middle of the artichoke, just through where the stem meets the base. Carefully dip the artichokes flower-side down into the oil and use a constant, push-and-pull plunging motion until the flower expands and browns a little bit. After this point, use a spoon or tongs to pry the artichoke off of the fork and drop into the oil, and let the artichokecook in the oil for 1-2 minutes longer until it gets nice and crisp. Remove with a slotted
spoon and drain onto a baking sheet with new paper towels. Immediately sprinkle
with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Repeat with the rest of the artichokes and garnish with mint, nepitella, and a lemon wedge.