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Dishes to Impress Your Friends: Carciofi alla Giudia

At Medicareful Living, we believe everybody should have at least one good showstopping dish. It’s that recipe you can bring out for dinner parties or to prove to your friends, “Hey, I can cook, too!” Trying a new dish is also a great excuse to test and expand your cooking skills. The more recipes you have to choose from, the better home chef you’ll be. That’s partly why we created this series — “Dishes to Impress Your Friends.”

In our Homemade Lobster Ravioli post, we discussed how to do everything from making fresh ravioli pasta to creating a pesto to steaming your own lobster tails. Today, we’ve got a less-work-intensive, but by no means easy-peasy, dish. In fact, this recipe for Jewish-style Artichokes, or as it’s known in Italy — Carciofi alla Giudia (car-CHO-fee al-la Joo-dee-uh), has beguiled people for years due to its complex simplicity!

Jewish Fried Artichokes — A Brief History & Overview

Carciofi alla Giudia is one of the most famous Roman recipes. Rome, “The Eternal City,” has long been home to a vibrant Jewish community, located in the neighborhood known as the Jewish Ghetto. This beautiful, ancient section of an already-ancient city houses some of the best restaurants in the city, and Carciofi alla Giudia is a staple of their menus. In fact, this dish has been on Italians’ menus for a long time, with the recipe appearing around the 16th century (though it may have been around longer than that). Due to the poverty of the community, recipes were simple, but used what they had to maximize the flavors. Today, Rome’s Jewish Ghetto is a haven for food lovers, combining Jewish cooking from ancient Judea and Roman cuisine that’s been perfected for centuries.

This dish has been on Italians’ menus for a long time, with the recipe appearing around the 16th century (though it may have been around longer than that).

So, what exactly are Jewish-style artichokes? The simplest way to describe these is as deep-fried artichokes. What makes them so impressive is their preparation, which can be daunting, and flavor.

We’ll get into the prep and cooking later, but for now, let’s focus on the flavor. Imagine a really good chip. Now forget that, because Carciofi alla Giudia takes everything that’s good about potato chips and improves upon it. The leaves of the artichoke become crispy, but meaty and salty, with a rich, nutty flavor. Once you reach the artichoke heart, the outside remains crispy but tender.

Preparing and Cooking Carciofi alla Giudia

Cooking the artichokes is the easy part. You’re deep-frying it twice. What makes this dish impressive to friends is preparation that’s involved in getting the artichokes ready to be eaten, specifically the spiny leaves.

Use Carciofi Romanesco (Roman artichokes) — the smaller, purple artichokes — if you can.

When shopping for artichokes, if you can find Carciofi Romanesco (Roman artichokes), buy those. These are the smaller, purple artichokes (not the large, sturdy green ones you can find in most grocery stores). You can use a regular green artichoke, but it will require a bit more cleaning. Roman artichokes are entirely edible and lack the spiny choke (the crown of pointy fibers that become the florets when the artichoke blooms) that other artichokes have. If you use regular artichokes, this means you’ll have to remove the spines from the chokes before eating them.

Preparing the Artichokes

Whatever type of artichoke you’re using, when you’re ready to start preparing them, you’ll need to follow a few basic steps.

  1. Remove the tough outer leaves. You’ll want to keep removing leaves until they begin to feel tender. It will seem like you’re removing a lot of leaves, but trust us, you don’t want to eat those.
  2. Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the tops of the remaining leaves, starting at the leaves closest to the base of the artichokes (where the stem meets the artichoke) and moving up in a circular motion.
  3. Cut off the top third of the artichokes. They should look a little like roses.
  4. Squeeze and rub half a lemon on the cut artichokes to keep them from browning, which can happen quickly.
  5. With a vegetable peeler or knife, remove the fibrous outside of the stem.
  6. Cut off all but about one or two inches of the stem.
  7. Place the artichokes in a large bowl filled with water and at least the juice of one lemon and the squeezed rinds mixed in.
  8. Let them rest in the water for about 30 minutes. Then, pull the artichokes out of the water and allow them to dry on a paper towel.
  9. Holding the stems, gently bump two artichokes together to shake any water between the individual leaves out. You don’t want the artichokes to be wet when they go into the oil.
  10. After they’re dry, you’re ready to fry!

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Traditional Carciofi alla Giudia Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 large Roman artichokes, prepared
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Pour roughly two inches of olive oil into a deep pan or deep fryer.
  2. Heat the oil to around 266°F, using either a high temperature thermometer or the sensor on the fryer.
  3. Once the oil is up to temp, gently place the artichokes in the oil and fry them for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the artichokes and allow them to cool a little.
  5. With your thumbs, open the artichokes by spreading and flattening their leaves. After they’re open, you can press them gently against your palm or a plate to flatten them further. They should look like sunflowers.
  6. Heat the oil to 338°F.
  7. Return the artichokes to the oil and deep fry them for around three minutes, until the leaves are browned and crisp.
  8. Using a pair of tongs or a BBQ fork (a long-necked fork), hold the artichokes stem-side up. It may help to do this portion of the deep-frying one artichoke at a time.
  9. Remove the artichokes from the oil and place them on a paper towel-covered plate, allowing some of the oil to drain off the artichoke blossoms.
  10. Sprinkle the artichokes thoroughly with kosher salt to taste and serve immediately. (They’re best served amongst friends, each picking away at the artichoke blossoms together!)