Saturday, April 2, 2016

Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts with Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce

     A Gourmet Beer Batter Appetizer!
     Beer batter food done the right way is a pleasure to eat!  Beer batter food done the wrong way is a greasy mess.  
     Too thin of a batter will result in a thin crispy porous coating that traps plenty of grease.  Too thick of a batter will result in a thick caky texture that absorbs more grease, because the frying time has to be extended.  The perfect beer batter consistency lies somewhere in between.  Beer batter should be the consistency of a pancake batter at room temperature.
     The simpler the beer batter recipe, the better the beer batter will be.  Many chefs add eggs and milk to a beer batter, but that is unnecessary.  That is like turning a beer batter into a cake batter.
     Highly seasoned beer batter is not good tasting tasting at all.  You should be able to taste the flavor of beer.  I have used this same beer batter recipe for many years.  Ginger and turmeric are two spices that accent the flavor of beer, so they naturally taste good in beer batter.  Only enough ginger should be added to give a hint of flavor.  The turmeric gives the beer batter a pretty pale yellow color.

     About 20 years ago, fried food started to include some new gourmet items.  Fried beer batter artichoke hearts were on the appetizer menu at a café that I cooked in.  Fried beer batter artichoke hearts appealed to customers that were tired of breaded fried mushrooms and breaded fried zucchini, which seemed to be offered on every bar menu in America.  Beer batter artichokes have a nice light appealing flavor., so they are perfect for serving as an appetizer.
     If you use freshly cooked artichoke hearts for this recipe, you may want to lightly salt the artichoke hearts, to bring out more flavor.  Canned artichoke hearts are a nice convenience.  Some brands of canned artichoke hearts are better than others.
     I made today's recipe with some nice quality canned whole artichoke hearts.  It is always better to purchase canned whole artichoke hearts, then slice them yourself.    

     Beer Batter:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups.  
     Pilsner or a light Lager is best for making beer batter that will coat delicate tasting items.  An extra hoppy or extra malty beer is not a good choice.  
     When I was the chef at an English pub, we only used the last bit of beer left in the bottom of a keg, which was usually flat.  Leftover lager or pilsner beer that has gone flat is a good choice for making beer batter.  Anything is better than pouring flat high quality beer down the drain!
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of light lager beer in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 pinches of turmeric.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Add just enough flour, while whisking, to create a medium thin batter.
     *The batter should have the consistency of pancake batter, that yields thin pancakes.
     Set the batter aside for immediate use.  

     Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1/3 cup.  (1 appetizer portion)
     This is a quickly made tomato sauce that requires good canned tomatoes.  High quality imported Italian canned San Marzano Tomatoes require very little cooking time.  
     Minced fresh herbs are best for this recipe.    
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 4 finely chopped cloves of garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of imported Italian canned crushed San Marzano Tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato juice.
     Add 1 pinch sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thick consistency.
     Step 4:  Place the garlic herb tomato sauce in a small ramekin and keep it warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.  .

     Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts:
     This recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut 8 canned artichoke hearts in half from top to bottom.
     Step 3:  Lightly dredge the artichoke heart halves in flour.
     Dip the artichoke hearts in the beer batter.
     Step 4:  Drop 1 beer batter artichoke heart half into the hot frying oil at a time, so they do not stick together.  (Fry in small batches if necessary.)
     Deep fry till the beer batter artichoke hearts are a crispy golden color.
     Step 5:  Use a fryer net to remove the beer batter artichoke hearts from the hot oil.
     Place the beer batter artichokes on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.

     Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts with Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce:
     Place the ramekin of Garlic Herb Tomato Sauce on an appetizer plate.
     Place several Italian Parsley sprigs on the plate as a bed for the artichoke hearts.
     Mound the Beer Batter Artichoke Hearts on the bed of parsley sprigs.

     This is a nice light beer batter vegetable appetizer!

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