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Christmas Cardoons

Nacho Monclús shares his family cardoon recipe, a traditional Spanish dish at the Christmas table.


  • 1.5 pounds cardoons
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 ounces olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 ounces serrano ham, diced
  • 4 ounces raw Marcona almonds, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


  • Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the juice of half a lemon. Set aside. Trim both ends of the cardoon stalks and remove all the leaves. Using a paring knife, shave the spiky edges off of each stalk and peel off the large ribs (as you would with celery); discard. Cut each stalk crosswise into 1- to 2-inch pieces and place them in the lemon water so that they won’t darken.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill another large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. When the water has come to a boil, drain the cardoon pieces and add them to the pot. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, just until tender (they should still be a bit firm.) Turn off­ the heat, scoop out the cardoons with a strainer and put them directly into the ice water. Add the juice from the remaining lemon half and a pinch of salt. Reserve the cooking water.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and sauté until transparent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the diced ham and cook until it begins to take on some color. Then add the crushed almonds, cooking them until fragrant and lightly toasted. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes. Little by little, add some of the cardoon cooking water—just enough to make a creamy sauce. When you’ve achieved the desired texture, drain the cardoons from the ice water and add them to the sauce. Cook them long enough to warm them through, then pour the mixture into a serving dish. Garnish with chopped parsley.