Winter in the Lucca region has the taste of some vegetables that cannot be ully appreciate until "they have not caught the cold".
Yes, because the cold mitigates the bitter note of some winter vegetables and so the people wait patiently for the first frost licking their mustache at the thought of rapini with sausages, barbe di prete (beards of priest) with new oil and gobbi in umido.
Relatively not too far from the artichoke, the gobbo (thistle) is known throughout Italy, both wild and domestic, but in Lucca it is treated with special care. The thistle, Cardo Cynara Cardunculus, loves low temperatures but can not stand the most intense frosts. Winter is its season, the gardens of Lucca its region.
The thistle is easy to grow, but to be clear, soft and pulpy, a true gobbo, gardeners of Lucca will work in special care and attention from the moment of sowing. For this reason, at the right time, the plant it is curved and covered and the growth continues under the ground so as to remain white and soft and ... gobbo (hunchbacks)!
Relative of the artichoke, the thistle is very versatile, not only in the kitchen but also for other uses: from the thistle you can get paper and in ancient times its inflorescences were used for the carding of the wool that before being processed and spun, must to be, in fact, carded.
But back in the kitchen, we suggest a simple but tasty recipe suitable for everyone to offer in the Christmas menu. Do not be fooled by the presence of the béchamel which, as everyone knows, has Tuscan origins and was introduced in France by Caterina de Medici. At the time it was known as a glue sauce, prepared with broth milk and spices and cooked slowly. It was imported to France with other kitchen fundamentals, from Caterina de 'Medici. The present name honors the courtier Louis de Béchameil, marquess of Nointel (1603-1703) and made his appearance in the Italian recipe book of the fifteenth century known as La Cucina Medicea.
what is needed:
1 kg of gobbi
for the bechamel
1 liter of whole milk, fresh
grated Parmesan cheese
100 grams of butter (Mr. Artusi would say an amount equal to an egg)
100 gr of flour
how you do it:
The milk is heated. Melt the butter and add the flour, browning it slightly. Then the hot milk is added slowly, stirring constantly so that no lumps are formed. Once all the milk is added, bring it to the boil, stirring constantly and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. After carefully cleaning the hunchbacks, cut them into small pieces and boil them. Drain, dry and cut into small pieces.
mix the thistles and the béchamel and put in a buttered oven dish. It is cooked in the oven or in a bain-marie.
If the pan has a hole in the center, once unmolded on the tray, you can add a meat sauce in the center to make a main course.
Enjoy your meal and happy holidays!