If you’ve never had crispy, pan-fried artichokes, you’re in for a treat! There is, seemingly, a lot of wasted artichoke with this preparation, but truthfully, you will be getting to enjoy the most edible parts of the vegetable, which is part of the thistle family. My preferred way to cook artichokes (before finishing them either in a pan or in the oven) is the microwave. The next best thing is to use a steamer basket-I don’t ever boil artichokes because this leaves them water-logged. And, as far as flavor goes, you can certainly forgo the addition of garlic and lemon, thus removing the “scampied” components, but these ingredients certainly make the dish more aromatic and delish. This dish scales up easily and, for a great cocktail nibble, use smaller artichokes and, instead of adding the garlic directly to the pan, serve with just a squeeze of lemon and/or a garlicky dip (like an aioli or a chipotle mayo).
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Fill a nonreactive bowl with cold water and add the juice of one lemon. Toss the lemon into the water. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top ¼ of the artichoke. Using your hands, rip off all of the leaves that are colored green-tear down to the leaves that are just barely green-more tan in color. (If the tips of the leaves have thorns, use kitchen scissors to snip them off first.) Using a paring knife, trim off the ends of the artichoke stem, then remove just the outer skin of the stems, leaving as much intact as possible. Cut the trimmed artichoke in half, lengthwise and rub the entire exposed artichoke with a cut side of a juicy lemon. Using a spoon, or your thumb in the smaller artichokes, remove the fuzzy leaves from the interior-don’t take too much, however, or you’ll cut into the heart. As each half is completed, drop the artichoke into the acidulated water. If doing a large batch, place a piece of wax paper over the top of the water to help keep the artichokes submerged.
Place the artichoke halves, cut sides down, in a glass dish (I use a pie plate) with several tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) of the acidulated water. Cover the dish taut with plastic wrap, then prick a few holes in the top. Microwave on high for 3 to 6 minutes (depending on their size), just until the base of the artichoke can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. As soon as they’re done, uncover the dish and place the artichokes on a doubled sheet of paper towels, cut sides down, to drain and cool. If doing this several hours in advance, wrap the artichokes in the paper towels and refrigerate.
Place the artichokes in a steamer insert, cut sides down, over boiling water. Cover the pot and steam, as described above, but for several minutes longer. (Start testing after 5 minutes.) Drain and cool as directed.
Heat a nonstick skillet with a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the artichokes, cut sides down, to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, occasionally pressing lightly with a spatula, to help them brown evenly. Turn them over and allow to brown on the other sides. Add the minced garlic and, if desired, the butter, to the hot pan and shimmy the handle to help the butter melt and the garlic disperse. When the artichokes are golden, add a nice dose of salt, some pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Shimmy to help the flavors meld. Serve now, with or without parmesan cheese.