A few years ago I was wandering around the Jewish Quarter in Rome with my sister and spotted Carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichokes) on a menu. Intrigued, we tried them. Every since I've been trying to replicate the pure crispy deliciousness!
It's not very hard to make actually, and a few experiments back and home turned out a delicious replica of the dish: part salty crunch and part melt-in-your-mouth sweet.
The trouble is, after many attempts, my results are not consistent. Sometimes it will turn out just right and be an unforgettably yummy dish, other times they are inedibly tough or bitter (or both). I am unable to put my finger on what the difference is. Is the oil tempurature and cook time that sensitive to small variations? Is it all in the artichoke to start with? Steaming seems to turn out much more consistent results. Obviously some are better than others, but it's at least always edible.
I've pretty much decided it's mostly in the original produce. I generally have a wide range at the local fruit and vegetable bazaar. I can get big ones, little ones, a couple colors, long stem or short. I've tried quite an assortment now and seem to have the best luck with smaller but older more open ones. However as many as I try, the results are still inconclusive. Sometimes the tightly packed jumbo ones come out fine too.
Basically, I have no idea how to tell whether a given artichoke will deep fry well. What should I be looking for in a thistle? Or am I on the wrong track and it's actually something I can fix by doing the fry just right?