Side Orders: Try fried artichokes with this garlic aioli dip

artichokes on wooden surface artichoke tile food tile cooking / Getty Images
artichokes on wooden surface artichoke tile food tile cooking / Getty Images

On a recent trip to California, I hit Highway 1 at the right season. Artichoke plants were in full bloom, and the fields were absolutely glorious. We were told to keep an eye out for food trucks in places serving fried artichokes because it's a particular specialty in California's artichoke country. And as soon as we hit Castroville, a city known for its artichokes, we happened upon one and had some of the best fried artichokes ever. I say ever, but I really should admit that this was my first time to enjoy such a treat.

The Choke Coach in Castroville has what many consider to be the best fried artichokes in the county. It's a colorful food truck that occupies space next to the farmer's market at Pezzini Farms and serves artichokes fried, steamed and grilled. Or you can enjoy a fried artichoke po' boy or fried artichokes in a wrap. You can also get a bowl of steaming artichoke soup. Even on a hot day in Southern California, the soup hot the spot.

When I got back home, I tested out a fried artichoke recipe myself. It's a lot easier to buy canned artichoke hearts for this recipe, unless you want to spend half a day boiling artichokes and uncovering the hearts beneath all the layers of leaves. These are best served immediately, but that shouldn't be a problem. They're so good, they won't be sitting around for long. They do freeze well, though, if you want to make them ahead of time. Let them cool completely, then freeze. Heat in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes before serving. The aioli is delicious, but these are also good served with ranch dressing if you're trying to save some time.

photo Photo by Anne Braly / Fried artichokes from The Choke Coach in Castroville, California, inspired a homemade attempt for the delicacy.
photo Anne Braly

Fried Artichokes With Garlic Aioli

Canola or vegetable oil

1 (34-ounce) jar baby artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup breadcrumbs (panko if you want an extra crunch)

Salt and pepper, for seasoning

For the aioli:

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise

Fill a deep-sided pot about halfway up with the oil. Heat on medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 375 degrees. Season the artichokes with salt and pepper.

Dip the artichokes in the flour first, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the artichokes, and set aside until the oil is ready.

Fry the artichokes in small batches for 3-4 minutes until they are golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and season immediately with salt and pepper. Repeat until the artichokes are all fried.

To make the garlic aioli: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir until well-incorporated.

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