Fried Baby Artichokes with Creamy Aioli
Tell me I’m not the only one who watches the Food Network while working out. I once saw another girl doing this at the gym. Are there more of you out there? Is it weird?
A couple of weekends ago, Ina Garten was having another “cooking with friends” episode. She was excited about her friend sharing this recipe for fried baby artichokes. I had to try them soon, and that week I found baby artichokes on sale at Fresh Market while on the hunt for fresh chorizo to use in another recipe.
It was on. And the artichokes were fabulous, as Ina would say. The recipe was presented with a yogurt dip, but an aioli sounded good to me.
Do you like mayo? I don’t like the squishy sound it makes when being scooped out of the jar or its color or texture very much. My dad also claims to cheer for the anti-mayonnaise team. But are our feelings really that strong? My mom sometimes picks up a tomato sandwich for him that he loves. It is basically three ingredients – bread, tomato, and lots and lots of mayonnaise. He denies this. He says nope, there’s no mayo in this wonderful sandwich. No way.
And when my Tia Romy picked me up after school, she’d usually show up with a chicken sandwich from Burger King. The receipt in the bag very plainly showed a request for heavy mayo. And you know what? I’d overlook it, enjoy my sandwich, and condone the use of mayonnaise only for this occasion. I never told her that I hated mayonnaise.
Well. It was probably time to try a homemade version.
The thing about homemade aioli is that the individual flavors really come through, especially the green, fruity taste of olive oil. The taste reminds you that this aioli’s freshness, not only the addition of garlic, sets this apart from a store-bought jar of mayonnaise. It’s got more attitude with the tiny red flecks of cayenne pepper and pungency of raw garlic.
And it goes really well with fried food.
Danny was surprised when I suggested a recipe for frying food. He’s seen me freak out in the kitchen with an angry pot of oil hissing and hitting me with tiny, hot splashes. I’d stand back, shielding myself with a splatter guard, feeling like a fighter who lost her sword and has nothing to fight back with.
This time in my life may be over. I’ve realized to trust my instinct on the amount of oil needed before starting with the sometimes huge amounts suggested in recipes. This one called for covering the artichokes in oil, but covering them halfway did the job just fine.
Then I realized frying isn’t as scary when using a bigger pot, my dutch oven. The artichokes fit comfortably in there, and oil bubbled up in a way that was much less menacing. The tall sides of the pot kept the splattering in order. I easily flipped the artichokes with a pair of tongs. No fear! The splatter guard stayed on the shelf.
All there was left to do was enjoy the aroma of thyme heating up as the vegetables cooked.
Barely 20 minutes later, these were served. They are so tasty, and probably my new favorite way to eat artichokes. Crisp, browned, FRIED. And because these are baby artichokes, you can dip them in aioli and pop them in your mouth whole.
I’ll definitely make these again. A couple of tougher leaves were left on though, so next time I won’t be so greedy when it comes to peeling off the leaves and parting with them. The recipe said to peel off 18 lower leaves, and that’s what I’ll do.
fried baby artichokes
I’m now convinced those cute little baby artichokes were meant to be eaten like this — crispy, browned, and fried.
10 baby artichokes
6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Use a sharp knife to cut the stems off the artichokes. Peel off the lower leaves, about 18. Don’t be stingy on peeling the leaves. You don’t want those tougher outside leaves. Slice off the top half of artichokes, leaving about 1 1/4 inches of artichoke. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise.
Place the artichokes flat side down in a large pot or dutch oven. Add olive oil until it covers the artichokes halfway. Add garlic cloves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the olive oil to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce to low-medium heat to simmer for 15 minutes. You’ll smell the thyme as it cooks. They are done when a knife can be easily inserted into the lower half of the artichokes.
Use tongs to remove the thyme and garlic from the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high heat and fry uncovered for about 2 minutes, turning the artichokes over halfway. The artichokes are done when browned and crispy.
Remove the artichokes from the pot, and set them flat side down on paper towels. To serve, flip onto a plate and sprinkle with salt. Serve with aioli.
Serves 4. Recipe from Barefoot Contessa.
Homemade aioli isn’t hard to make, and the taste is so much better than storebought mayo.
2 small garlic cloves, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
Whisk egg yolk, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons water in a large bowl. Continue to whisk constantly as you drizzle in the grapeseed oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, until sauce thickens and is emulsified. Keep working that whisk while slowly adding the the olive oil in a steady stream. Stir in the cayenne. Add a good squeeze of a lemon, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Taste and season with more lemon or salt and pepper if needed.
Note: Keep any leftover aioli in the fridge. BA doesn’t say how long it will keep, but my guess is a few days and maybe up to a week. And of course, BA advises to skip this recipe using raw egg for infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. For everybody else, it’s pasteurized, and it’s not a big deal.
Makes 1/2 cup. Adapted from Bon Appétit.