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Cardon is a mean spiky plant the Genevois have adopted as their own.  In fact if you plan on becoming Swiss, this delicacy from the artichoke family will be on your Swiss test as a typical local food. You’ll be expected to serve it at Christmas dinner.

Last November while walking in the fields, I came across our local farmer’s harvest.  You don’t need to look closely to see the long, nasty spikes.

I have only one friend who has taken on the challenge of fresh cardon and she vowed, “Never again. Just pay the CHF 15 for a jar of cut and blanched cardon. It’s worth avoiding the blood and long-term pain.”

Commercial Cardon.

The other challenge of Cardon is its mild artichoke flavor. Finding a recipe that allows the flavor to come through is tough.  The Swiss serve it as gratin (based on a bechamel sauce); the French love the late Paul Bocuse’s gratin (with bone marrow) and I’ve seen a beautiful  Velouté recipe; the Italians dip cardons in Bagna Cauda and a small group of Americans serve it in fritters and stew.

Everywhere I go, the gratin de cardons is delicious. Recently I ordered a Trilogie Genevoise (local Geneva sausages) just for the cardon at the Brasserie Hôtel de Ville.  It was oh, so good.

Trilogie Genevoise avec gratin de Cardons from the Hôtel de Ville

But I still haven’t found the perfect recipe for my own cooking abilities. Last night I decided to try using a variation on my favorite Bon Appétit Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese recipe:

  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml of cream
  • 4 Tablespoons white wine
  • 1 finely chopped or grated small garlic clove
  • 150 grams goat cheese
  • 1 x 500 gram jar cardon (drained)
  1. Place the first three ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer on medium heat. Add half the goat cheese and stir until melted.
  2.  Place drained cardon in a buttered, small casserole or gratin dish.
  3. Pour over the cardon and mix.
  4. Crumble the remaining goat cheese on top.
  5. Cook for 20 minutes on 375.

The taste was good for my family but I wouldn’t serve it to guests.  The dish missed something and the presentation was blah. So on my next attempt I’ll substitute grated gruyére for the goat cheese and a touch of Port for the wine while adding a dash of nutmeg or pepper.

What about you? Do you have an easy, delicious way of serving Cardon? If so please share. I’m eager to master this Geneva national vegetable.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/