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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Now that we've told you all about cardoons, here's why you should be buying them -- and how to deal with them once you start.
Cardoons are a funny vegetable. By the looks of them, you'd think they wouldn't care whether they were picked up at a market or passed over in favor of something livelier, better looking. Think about it: at a market stand lush with produce, do you choose the ripe, inviting strawberries, or the spiny cardoons that look a little too much like celery with armor? We don't blame you -- cardoons, in raw form, look like they might be ready for attack.
However easy it is to dream of what you'll do with those strawberries, next time you're at the market, consider cardoons. Under the far-sexier name cardi or cardone, people lunching on the coast of Italy under ivy-covered pergolas order these. Does that help? Buy the cardoons. Trust us.
What are cardoons, anyway?
Cardoons go way back -- as in, Caecilius and his pater ate them in reclined positions on low couches somewhere in Ancient Rome. They'd be served alongside watered wine; and that's how you should eat them, too, minus the water. (If you can find someone to fan you, all the better.)
When cooked properly, cardoons get a creamy interior that will taste very much like an artichoke, which brings us to step one. Before you do anything, make an acidulated water bath just like you would for their spiny cousin. Without it, the stalks will discolor after you peel and cut them.
Then, separate each of your stalks from the whole bunch. (Think celery.)
Working one stalk at a time, trim both ends.
To remove the sharp thorns and outer leaves, run a sharp knife down the edge of each cardoon. Then repeat on the other side.
Using a peeler on the remaining exterior of each stalk will remove the tough and stringy outer layer. If you're making anything other than soup, you'll want to do this.
And you're done! Cut them to whatever size your recipe specifies, and drop them immediately into your water bath.
Photos by James Ransom