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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brian's Cooking Blog-Cardoons Thanksgiving 2012

Cardoons or Cardoonies (as we always called them)

I am writing this because it has been 2 years since I made cardoonies and I am having difficulty remembering everything. Getting old sucks. Next year I can refer back to this and the pictures. This is also the first time I am making them at the new house and I don't have my OCD routines down and I haven't really cooked or baked anything here yet. I also typed this on the iPad so please excuse the grammar and typos.

Grandma Antista, my Mom's Mom, taught me how to make these many years ago before she passed away with much help from my Auntie Steph (made a big mess in her kitchen). Grandma always made cardoonies for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and occasionally for Easter. When I was young I didn't like them. They are an acquired taste. I think I began to like them around age 12, much to the dislike of the grownups. Less cardoonies for them.

In college I always looked forward to coming home to cardoonies for Thanksgiving. I would always sneak one early while taking them to the car when picking up Grandma. Many years ago when Grandma's health begin to decline and she moved into an assisted living facility I knew it was time for me to carry on the tradition. For what looks like large celery they are a lot of work to prepare. There is a link at end of the blog to a cardoon wikipedia page. Mom could make them, but she is busy with everything else, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, jello salad for Jon, etc. etc.. Auntie Steph doesn't cook that much.

It is usually best to spread the preparation over 2 nights. Clean and soak overnight and then boil and fry the following night, but I should start with how difficult they are to actually find and purchase. Mom usually can get them in Upland at Claro's Italian Market on the Sunday. In years past on Monday nights we would meet halfway between Upland and Temecula, a half hour for each of us. Now that I am in Santee and 2 hours away it would be more of a drive, but worth it. I actually have not been to Upland in over a year. I believe this is a record. I have actually seen and spent more time with my parents this past year. They just come and stay here now.

Since Thanksgiving is at my house this year, Mom and Dad were going to drive down Tuesday afternoon and we would go the grocery store to get everything we need for Thanksgiving Tuesday night. This year there were no Cardoonies on Sunday, but Mom was told that they should arrive Monday. Monday comes and still no Cardoonies again, but mom is told they will arrive at 2pm on Tuesday. I texted Mom at 1:30pm on Tuesday to ask if she was in line at Claro's waiting. She was about to leave. You don't want to mess around with all of the Sicilian grandmothers at Claro's waiting for cardoonies, but Mom is also one Sicilian grandmother you don't want to mess with. 2 o'clock arrives and still no Cardoonies. Now Mom is told the truck is late and there may or may not be Cardoonies on the truck. NOOOOOO!!!!!

A lady at Claro's says to go home and call back at 4:30 pm for an update. I didn't make Cardoonies last year since I was moving that week and I really want them. I need to find a place in San Diego that has them. So now I am just waiting and waiting for Mom to call and tell me the good news. Finally at 5:30 pm Mom calls and she has 2 bunches of Cardoons. She says one is OK and one might be tough. From my experience the whiter and fuzzier they are the better they are. Like I said it's been over a year so I just want them.

My parents didn't arrive until 9pm so the prep will have to wait until the next day as will the grocery shopping.

The good white and fuzzy part from the middle of the stalk. The stalks this year are not as good as years past so I am sorting them into 3 batches, the good, the OK, and the experimental. In the past I would have thrown out what was used in experimental batch. I just boiled them longer, 1 1/2 hours, and boiled garlic with them for added flavor. Flavor will most likely not be the issue. They will just be stringy and fibrous.

After a hearty breakfast at Swami's Cafe and some Costa Rican coffee for added energy it is time to begin. The worst part is the cleaning. It took almost 2 hours to cut, peel, and clean. The more time spent removing the stringy parts the better they will taste. I should have taken a picture of the mess in the sink and the mess on the dining room table bench seat which is directly behind the sink. In Temecula the window behind the sink was always disgusting after. I knew I would need to be a little more careful cleaning the cardoons this year. I was more careful, but water did manage to go beyond the sink and counter and find its way to the dining room bench.

The good batch soaking.

The OK batch soaking.

And the experiment soaking.

I usually soak them overnight in salt water to help with the bitterness but no room in the fridge and no time. So a 2 hour soak it is and then 60 minutes of boiling.

I love the leafy ones. Can't wait to eat them!

The good batch was ready after only 45 minutes so time to dip in flour and fry in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Looking good!

As the oil gets brown it is time to change. I used an entire bottle of EVOO and had to change the EVOO 3 times. This means you need to stop, let the pan cool down, and then wash in the sink and dry and start over. The third time I did not wait for the oil and pan to cool. Big mess, but I was getting tired.

Cardoons" resting" after frying.

The good and OK batches are done!

Once all the batches are done it is time to make the "special sauce" to pour on top after layering in a casserole dish.

Frying garlic in a "titch"(measurement from Grandma) of EVOO.

Garlic added to vinegar and water. Next step is to pour on top of the cardoons and then cover and put in the fridge so they can ferment. They will be just right tomorrow.

The OK batch.

The good batch. We will eat these tomorrow.

The experimental batch. I tried one. They were a little on the chewy side.

I want to eat them now!!!

Well, I am exhausted. I started around noon and finished around 5:30 pm, but that also involved a delay when 2 shelves in the pantry collapsed when I put the flour back on a shelf. Apparently the shelf pegs weren't installed correctly at the back of the shelf and when I returned the flour to its point of origin at the back of the shelf it tilted down and hit the shelf below which then crashed to the shelf below that. Aye Caramba! I should have taken pictures of that also.

Nothing broke and I replaced the cheap plastic brackets with metal ones. I also threw out a few expired items. Actually quite a few. The worst was peanut oil that expired in 2010. But does it go bad? There was also some Crisco oil sticks that expired in 2011, but most things expired recently in 2012.

If you made it this far, good for you, and here is a link on Wikipedia-

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Location:Santee,United States