Cardoon, cardoon. Oversized cousin of the artichoke, mysterious thistle, like a fern of sea-fog green that towers among the vegetables, cardoon! What are you?! And more importantly, how do we eat you?
The cardoon is generally described as having a flavor somewhere between artichoke and celery; this is true, but only to a point. The stem of the plant is what we are eating here, and it carries a bitterness that lingers faintly, even after a solid 30 minutes of parboiling. It has little of the sweetness of an artichoke heart, but the flavor is similar in other ways, and the faint bitterness is almost refreshing against the golden, fried exterior of this dish. Instantly addictive, and a relief as well; finally we have something to do with that gigantic plant that towers in our demonstration garden.
1) Prep the cardoons
Prepare the cardoons by stripping the leaves and stringy outer parts of the rib from the stalks. Look out for the small barbs that line the outer edge of the leaf; these plants are related to the thistle, after all! The larger the leaves, the more bitterness they will have acquired.
Cut the cleaned stalks into chunks about 2-3” long, and place them in a pot of salted water.
2) Parboil the cardoons
Parboil the cardoons until they are just tender, about 20-30 minutes.
At this point, the cardoons can be stored in their cooking water for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, if desired.
3) Marinate the cardoons
Drain the cardoons well. Place them in a large bowl; toss them with 2 cups buttermilk and a pinch of fine sea salt. Let this mixture stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.
4) Make your batter
Meanwhile, prepare the buttermilk batter. Combine flour and sea salt in a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup buttermilk. Add the the beer and whisk just to combine; the batter will become light and foamy. Too much mixing at this stage will develop the gluten in the flour and toughen the batter. Let this mixture stand for 15 minutes.
5) Prepare for frying
Line a serving dish with parchment or paper towels, to drain the cardoons after frying.
Prepare your cooking oil as the batter rests. In a large, wide-mouthed pan, heat the oil to 350°F.
6) Dredge and batter the cardoons
Fill a shallow plate or tray with flour, and dredge each cardoon piece in it.
After dredging, dip each cardoon in the buttermilk batter, and shake off the excess.
7) Fry the cardoons
Deep-fry in batches, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove the cardoons from the oil and drain the excess oil, then place them in the oven to keep warm while the rest cook.
8) Garnish and serve hot!
Garnish with chile flakes, a light sprinkling of sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve warm, with additional lemon wedges, and the other half of that beer, if you didn’t finish it while deep frying...
Over to You
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