Cardoons — the delicate winter vegetable that looks like celery and tastes like artichoke — are like asparagus in two ways. First, in certain climates they are perennials, coming back each year without being replanted. Second, the way you clean and prepare them determines how good they taste. The secret to cooking delicious cardoons is cleaning them carefully and boiling them first.
About 6-7 cardoon stalks
1 teaspoon fennel powder
1 cup breadcrumbs or masa harina (corn flour)
3-4 Tablespoons grape seed oil for frying
3 teaspoons fine sea salt
Process Use a paring knife to clean the cardoons carefully. Trim all leaves and remove any dry, brown ends. Next, use a peeler or paring knife to peel all tough, dry outer layers and loose threads.
Cut the remainder of the stalk into 4-inch-long pieces. As you cut each one, place it in a bowl of water with half of the lemon, squeezed.
Bring a large pot of water with 2 teaspoons sea salt to a roiling boil. Drop in the cardoon pieces and boil them for about 35 minutes until they are tender. Remove cardoons from the pot and set aside to cool.
Whisk the egg, the fennel powder and a pinch of sea salt together.
Bathe the cardoon pieces in the egg mixture.
Spread the breadcrumbs (or corn flour) on a large plate. Roll each egg-dunked cardoon piece in breadcrumbs (or corn flour) until it is covered on all sides.
Set coated cardoons aside for frying. Heat a cast iron or stainless steel skillet for about 2 minutes. Add the grape seed oil. When the oil is hot, drop in the breaded cardoon pieces. Fry, turning over, until each one is lightly browned on each side. Remove from the pan with wooden tongs or a spatula.
Dredge on a brown paper bag to remove excess oil. Sprinkle the fried cardoons with remaining sea salt. Cut the remaining half lemon into wedges and serve with the cardoons.
©Nancy Wolfson-Moche 2013