One of my favorite winter vegetables is cardoon, the large celery-looking vegetable that tastes like an artichoke. I enjoy cutting cardoon up and frying them, cooking them in a gratin, and braising them. The braising method really brings out the artichoke flavor so well - each bite is rich and earthy.
Preparing cardoons takes a bit of work, but it is worth it. Using a vegetable peeler, be sure to peel the edges of the stalks - by this I mean the top parts where the "U" forms two edges. They are covered with fine, hair-like thorns and need to be removed. Remove the leaves as well they contain thorns. As you cut them in 2-inch pieces, drop them in a bowl of acidulated water - really, just a bowl of ice water with the juice of 1 lemon squeezed into it, or two tablespoons of white vinegar.
Next, parboil the cardoons in the acidulated water for 7 to 10 minutes, drain, and run cold water over them. Now the cardoons are ready for the recipe! Read How To Prepare Cardoons to better understand the steps required to bring out the flavor of this vegetable.
4 to 5 cardoon stalks, prepared as directed above, and cut in 2-inch pieces
1 to 2 shallots, sliced thin
1 tbsp. butter cut in bits
1 cup of beef broth (you can substitute vegetable if you are a vegetarian)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a baking dish, add the cardoons, the broth, and the shallots. Top with the butter pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the liquids haven't completely evaporated. If they have, then add more broth. Cardoons are ready when tender. Remove the dish from the oven and turn on the broiler. Remove the foil and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, and put back into the oven for 5 minutes or until the cread crumbs are nicely toasted.
(Image: Kathryn Hill)