Peak season for artichokes is March through May and the markets are still full of plump globes. So I am making this recipe often to serve as an hors d’oeuvres with drinks before dinner parties, and the occasional panful for my supper. It chases after the flavors of fried artichokes I’ve had in Italy, but without deep-frying.
I use the technique of braise-sauteing I developed years ago for A New Way to Cook: I braise the artichokes in a simple sage-and-garlic-flavored olive oil and a little water to tenderize them. Once all the liquid has evaporated, I saute the artichokes in the remaining aromatic oil until a caramelized crust builds up on them, giving them a flavor of fried artichokes. I use the crispy garlic and sage — bi-products from making the oil —as a delicious garnish. The whole recipe uses a single pan.
Don’t be daunted by the instructions for paring and slicing artichokes. It is really very easy. Once you get the hang of it, the whole dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. You are basically stripping the artichokes down to their most tender and delicious part: the heart. Rather than discard the pulled-off leaves, I steam the pulled-off leaves to dip in melted butter and nibble the tender flesh as a snack.
Pan-Fried Artichokes with Crispy Garlic and Sage
If you wish prepare most of the dish done in advance, up to 6 hours ahead, braise the artichokes until they are tender and all the liquid has evaporated, but do not fry them. Set them aside until you’re ready to use them. About 5 minutes before serving, pan-fry the artichokes as directed below. Garnish with Crispy Sage and Garlic.
1 lemon, cut in half
4 medium-large globe artichokes
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
15 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To prepare the artichokes: Squeeze a lemon into a medium bowl and fill with cold water. As you prepare the artichokes, add the slices to this bath to keep them from turning brown. Trim 1/2″ off the stem ends of the artichokes and and pull off the green outer leaves from the base until only pale yellow ones are exposed. (Discard the green leaves or steam them to eat with a vinaigrette). With a thin, sharp knife, halve the artichokes crosswies; discard the leafy tops. With a paring knife, pare away the tough skin or fibrous outer skin. Quarter the artichoke bottoms lengthwise. Cut out and discard the furry chokes. Slice artichoke quarter in half again.
In a large nonstick skillet, combine the oil and the garlic. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is barely golden, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until the garlic is crisp, about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add the sage leaves to the skillet and cook, turning once, until the leaves are darkened, fragrant, and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves to the garlic. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the sage oil into a small bowl and reserve.
Drain the artichokes well and add them to the skillet along with the water and the salt; toss to coat and cover the pan. Cook over moderately high heat until the water has evaporated and the artichokes are tender but not mushy, about 12 minutes. If water is evaporating too quickly, add 2 or 3 more tablespoons more to the pan.
Uncover and increase the heat to high. Cook to evaporate any liquid in the pan then add the reserved sage oil. Saute the artichokes, tossing frequently, until they are slightly caramelized and browned, about 5 minutes.) Grind over fresh pepper to taste. Serve at once or at room temperature. Scatter the garlic and sage over the top as a garnish.