Friday, March 4, 2011
There are a lot of things in this book that I don't know where I'm going to get. Which, ultimately, will be part of the fun. But it was really cool that with the first two dishes I made, I got to check two of the ingredients that concerned me off.
I have seen cardoons before, but only once or twice. I saw them at the Fresh Market once, and I felt like it was in the fall of whatever year I saw them. So I was initially penciling this and two other cardoon dishes in for later in the year.
But I heard that Tommy's produce stand in Clearwater often had them. So I gave them a call, and sure enough, they did. So much for a challenge.
I knew that they basically looked like an out of control celery plant, possibly with a bad attitude. When I got there, I felt like they weren't spectacular specimens of cardoon. But then I had to admit to myself, I had no idea what they should look like. So maybe these were great. They were light green, with a few brown spots. But not too bad. By then, again, I was invested, so I got them and came home.
I peeled them and trimmed them, then cut them into what amounted to a rough julienne, and boiled them for 45 minutes.
The cooked cardoons -- which is fun to say -- go into a casserole in alternating layers with heavy cream and parmigiano-reggiano cheese, then into the oven for 20 minutes.
While all that is happening, there is a little artichoke-radicchio salad to go with the gratinato. And sort of like the fennel in the last post, artichokes are something I always love when I have them at a restaurant, but I've never cared to try to deal with them myself, other than out of a can. They just seemed like so much work.
So, this recipe doesn't call for artichokes from a can. (In fact, off the top of my head, I think the only thing in the book that calls for something out of a can is a vinaigrette that calls for canned truffles. And I just saw what a can of those costs. Yikes.) Here, I took baby artichokes and trimmed and quartered them, then put them in a skillet and covered with oil that is infused with mint and red pepper flakes (above). Here's how hard this dish is: You bring the oil to a boil, then turn off the burner and walk away. The artichokes cook in the cooling oil. To spectacular effect.
Like the fennel, I will do this again. And again. And again. I see that these artichokes are involved in a number of dishes in the book. This makes me happy.
So the gratinato comes out of the oven, and is plated with a little artichoke tossed with some shredded radicchio. Mine didn't come out quite as cohesively as it appeared to in the photo in the book. It is quickly apparent why the cardoons are paired with the artichoke. They are definitely similar in flavor. The cardoon was soft and nutty. Pam said it was a little bitter, but I didn't get that. The cheese also has a nuttiness, and it all worked. Well, I don't love radicchio, so that part wasn't great. But there wasn't much of it.
So, so far, we are two recipes in, and I have learned to gut a fish, roasted a whole fish, figured out how to make fennel that I like, and ditto with artichokes. If I get nothing else out of this project, I feel good about that.
Up next: Grilled lamb chops scottaditi