Cardoon and potato gratin. (Photo: Miriam Kresh/Unpacked)

Cardoons in the open-air market. I never really knew what to do with them, so I would walk past the silvery-green stalks. But I got ashamed of myself. It was time to get acquainted with cardoons. So I brought some home.

Cardoons are the stems of a thistle related to artichokes, but the cardoon flower is negligible and the leaves bitter. To eat cardoons, you must cut off the thorny parts of the stem and peel away the celery-like fibers. Then they must be pre-cooked before starting the recipe, to get rid of excess bitterness. The resulting taste is delicate, needing only a little shallot and cheese to set it off. A seasonal treat.

Cardoon and potato gratin

PrintPrep15 minutes Cook Time1 hour


  • 8-10 cardoon stalks, trimmed of thorny sides and with fibers on the stalks peeled away
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into sticks about the shape of your forefinger
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese, out of which reserve 1/4 cup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon


  • Have a bowl of cold water ready with the lemon juice in it.
  • Cut the stalks into thick slices diagonally and toss them into the bowl of lemon water as you work, to keep them from turning brown. A sharp knife, just slid down the backs, removes most of the stringy fibers.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into sticks about the shape of french fries. Chop the shallot finely.
  • Have ready a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook the cardoons in it, covered, for 10 minutes or until barely tender. Drain well.
  • Mix the cardoons, potatoes, shallot, 3/4 cup of grated cheese, milk, cream, salt and pepper.
  • Prepare a gratin dish by lining it with baking paper, or grease it heavily. Pour the vegetables into it.
  • Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup grated cheese over top.
  • Bake at 425° F (220° C) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked through.

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