Gratin de cardons (Gratin of Cardoons)


A European native, a cardoon looks like flat celery and tastes slightly like an artichoke. Its season ranges from fall to early spring. For the bouquet garni seasoning, wrap several sprigs of parsley and thyme and four or five bay leaves together in cheesecloth. After cooking with it, remove seasonings, and discard. Place individual portions of cardoons on scoops of Forbidden Rice—see recipe.

  • SERVINGServings



  • 2 to 3 cardoon heads, about 4 lb.
  • 1 whole lemon
  • Large piece stale bread
  • 4 to 5 Tbs. vinegar

Court Bouillon

  • 4 qt. water
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig thyme
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste


  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter plus extra for topping
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 2 Tbs. heavy cream, optional
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. To prepare Cardoons: Cut off bases, and discard tough outer stems. Trim remaining stems, removing strings, leaves and prickles. Quarter hearts lengthwise. Wash and slice stems into 3- to 4-inch pieces, and rub with lemon to prevent discoloration.
  2. To make Court Bouillon: Combine ingredients in stockpot over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Place cardoon stems and hearts in pan with crusty stale bread to help remove bitterness of cardoons. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, remove from heat and cool. When cool enough to handle, lift edge of each piece with paring knife, and peel off skin. Trim away toughest fibrous strings down to tender stems. Soak trimmed cardoon pieces in water to cover with several tablespoons vinegar until ready to use.
  3. To make Béchamel: Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Add onion, and cook until pale golden. Add flour, and stir well, about 1 minute. Slowly add 1 cup milk, stirring constantly, and continue cooking 35 minutes more. When sauce thickens, slowly add more milk until all milk is used up. Add clove, sugar and bouquet garni. Continue to cook 11/2 hours, stirring and scraping occasionally. Whisk sauce, and strain, removing bouquet garni and clove. Add heavy cream, if desired, and a pinch nutmeg and salt to taste.
  4. Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly butter ovenproof baking dish.
  5. To assemble gratin, place cardoons in baking dish. Add Béchamel to cover evenly. Sprinkle uniformly with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and small pieces of butter for topping.
  6. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, and serve.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: SERVES 4
  • Calories: 410
  • Carbohydrate Content: 45 g
  • Cholesterol Content: 60 mg
  • Fat Content: 20 g
  • Fiber Content: 5 g
  • Protein Content: 16 g
  • Saturated Fat Content: 12 g
  • Sodium Content: 79 mg
  • Sugar Content: 19 g