conquering the cardoon
September 28, 2012 § 6 Comments
Believe it or not, this is Friday’s FFwD posting for a vegetable side dish of Endive, Apples and Grapes with locally grown cardoon (still growing above) standing in for not locally grown endive. For those of you unfamiliar with cardoon (and until a few days ago I was a member of that group) they are related to artichoke, both in flavor and appearance. The main difference is that you eat the stem of the cardoon instead of the thistle flower bud of the artichoke. They are handled similarly in preparation and cooking, although there’s considerably more effort in cardoon preparation but justifiably more reward in the yield. Here’s a slideshow preview from Saveur on the process.
Start with one cardoon plant straight from the field. Remove the stalks as you would celery, but watch out for the prickles or wear gloves. Gloves will also prevent your fingers from being stained, but I found them too clumsy to wear, so I still have very brown fingertips three days later. You need to work with the stalks one at a time all the way through the following preparation to prevent them from turning brown before cooking. Of course this makes a lengthy preparation take even longer, but I remind you here, the rewards are great (if you are an artichoke lover)!
Use a knife to remove any remaining leaves and the prickles on either side of the stalk. Here is the cardoon stem “de-fanged”.
Use a paring knife or peeler (or both) to remove the strings and skin from the outside of the stem (the peeler is safer, but the strings tend to clog it up). Flip the cardoon over and carefully pull the thin white film off the inside of the stem. Rinse the stem under water often to keep it from browning (oxidizing) while you are preparing it.
Here’s what the outer skin and strings look like (I pulled most of the strings out with the paring knife and then cleaned it up with the peeler), and here’s what the white film from the inside of the stalk looks like.
The cleaned stalks go immediately into some acidulated water (water with vinegar or lemon juice added). Once you have a potful, place them into a pot of clean water with lemon juice and salt and parboil them for several minutes, depending on the desired doneness and whether they’ll undergo further cooking.
Finishing the dish is quick and easy. Slice the cardoons crosswise no larger than 1/2″ (makes them easier to chew as they can still be fibrous) and sauté in a little butter or olive oil (or both) with a sprig or two of rosemary. While that’s cooking, slice apples (I like skin on) 1/4″ thick and add to the pan. Occasionally stir or toss for even cooking, but it’s nice to get some caramelization on the edges of the vegetable and fruit. Finally toss in some whole grapes and cook until they start to release their juice. I really reduced the cooking time for this dish to get a much fresher result; I was also running out of time because cardoon preparation took so long. But I and the guests were very pleased with the result! All of the ingredients came from my friends’ Max and Wink’s orchard, vineyard and garden, and the dish was part of a celebratory wine grape harvest dinner at their winery.