Fried Cardoons with Fennel & Parsley

cardoonI'd never eaten or cooked a cardoon before, and at first glance, my expectations were low. Massive and stringy, in a dusty shade of green, they looked like something off of "The Flintstones." (Caveman celery, perhaps?) As it turns out cardoons have been around for a while. Romans used to dip them into olive oil and every customer who comes into the shop with an Italian grandmother seems to have a fond memory of them. Whether baked in a gratin, tossed into pasta, steamed or fried, I'm learning that these thistles are as widely appealing as they are big. Now I know why. After a bit of recipe googling, I decided to deep-fry my cardoons with some fennel and what I ended up with was like crispy little nuggets of artichoke heart. What a pleasant surprise! We'll have a fresh delivery of cardoons in the shop on Wednesday afternoon, if you'd like to give these a whirl. BUTTERMILK FRIED CARDOONS WITH FENNEL & PARSLEY
  • 2-3 stalks cardoons, rinsed and dried (about 1 pound)
  • 1 bulb fennel, rinsed
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Fill a large bowl with water and add the juice of half of the lemon. Cut second half into wedges and reserve for serving.
  2. Prep cardoons by removing leaves and any hard external ribs with a vegetable peeler. Cut across the cardoon into strips as long as your thumb and immediately add cut pieces to lemon water.
  3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the cardoons and boil until tender, about 35 minutes. Remove the cardoon pieces form the water and allow to air dry.
  4. Meanwhile chop parsley; set aside and slice fennel lengthwise, into 1/4" strips.
  5. Once cooked cardoons are dry, fill a deep pot about 2 inches high with vegetable oil. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 360 to 375 degrees F. The oil should remain at or around this temperature throughout the cooking process.
  6. Fill one bowl with buttermilk and another bowl with flour, plus a 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
  7. Working in batches, dip the cardoons and fennel first into the buttermilk and then dredge in the seasoned flour.
  8. Using a slotted spoon or spider, gently drop the vegetables into the oil, fry until golden brown and dry in a single layer on paper towels.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve with wedges of reserved lemon half.
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