Makes:6 to 8 servings
The artichoke’s lesser-known cousin, the cardoon was considered a delicacy by the ancient Greeks. Its large stalks require extra effort to prep but impart a bitter, earthy, distinctly vegetal flavor that’s sure to win over artichoke-lovers.
What to buy: Cardoons are most commonly found at farmers’ markets. Look for stalks that are free from blemishes and don’t show signs of wilting.
Panko is coarse Japanese-style breadcrumbs. It’s available in the international section of most supermarkets.
Fill a large saucepan with heavily salted water, squeeze in the juice from the lemon half, and add the lemon.
Trim the leaves and ends from the cardoon stalks, thoroughly wash them, and cut them in half. Place a stalk horizontally on a cutting board and peel off the stringy fibers using a vegetable peeler. Cut the stalk crosswise into 1-inch pieces and immediately add them to the saucepan. Repeat with the remaining stalks.
Bring the cardoons to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook at a low boil until the cardoon pieces are fork tender, about 50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the cream, broth, thyme, and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the mixture is reduced by a quarter (to about 1 1/2 cups), about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt.
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Fill a 2-quart baking dish with the drained cardoons. Remove and discard the garlic and thyme from the cream mixture and pour it over the cardoons.
Place the Parmesan cheese, panko, and pepper in a medium bowl, mix until thoroughly combined, and sprinkle evenly over the cardoons. Bake until the cream mixture is bubbling, the cardoons are very easily pierced with a knife, and the topping is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.