Baked Cardoons, Roman-Style: Cardi Gratinati alla Romana

After finding cardoons at the Union Square Greenmarket, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Although I’ve eaten cardoons twice since moving to NYC (once at Craftbar, once at Babbo) they’d never really made much of an impression on me. But the first time I had ever heard of cardoons was many years before I moved up here, on “Molto Mario.” He made Baked Cardoons, Roman Style.

I used this site to figure out to clean them. Cardoons require almost as much prep work as their cousin the aritchoke. You have to remove the leaves, then the spines along the stalks, and then the fibers running up the stalks, and then trim them some more. The result from this gigantic plant was only a handful of pieces.

In order to render them edible you have to cook them quite a bit. For this recipe I boiled them for about an hour in water with lemon, and then transferred them to a baking dish. I then covered them with bechamel sauce (recipe in the link above), pecorino cheese, and bread crumbs and baked them for another 35 minutes.

The result? Even after all of that cooking, not all of the pieces were soft enough to enjoy. The ones that were were pretty good, but the flavor was not very remarkable. Of course the milky, cheesy sauce was good. I’m a huge fan of artichokes so I really want to like cardoons, but I may have to give up on them at this point. Anyone have any good cardoon recipes they’d like to chare?

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