I'm making a dish that calls for six cardamom pods added while cooking. After the dish cooks, should I make the effort to locate and remove the pods? I'm assuming they're like Bay Leaves, unpleasant to chomp on but otherwise harmless.
It should be fine to leave them in, but I prefer to not have the chewy pod. I just slighty crush the pods on one end, and expose the seeds that are inside, and kind of pour them into what I'm making. The pods are pretty much hollow inside and the seeds are lose, so its easy to dispatch them this way.
When something calls for cardamom pods, you get a lot more flavor if you put the entire pod in, and split open to expose the seeds. You also get a lot more flavor if you happen to pick the pod up in a bite, and it's .. quite strong. Some people like it, I certainly don't mind it, but my kids would rather not have them as a surprise. I tend to remove them.
I love making orzo with chicken, celery, herbs and mushroom and cardamom is a key ingredient that I use. Fishing the pods out of the pan later was rather difficult; it was difficult to spot them with all that celery.
I have some tricks that really help. For starters, remember how many you put in, make sure you get that many out. Note that they can split in half and come apart while cooking, so don't stop fishing at 2 1/2 when you know you put three in.
Use the biggest pods in the jar in recipes where they're going to be hard to spot after cooking. If you're just flavoring some rice, use some of the smaller ones - they're easily spotted. If they'll blend in easily within the dish, use the larger ones.
You can also color them with food coloring, without affecting the flavor (proper food coloring is flavor-neutral). Soak them for half an hour in blue or red coloring, then again for fifteen minutes in tepid to warm water to make sure they're done giving back any of the coloring you gave them (you don't want your risotto turning blue). Split them after you've done this.
They take on enough of the coloring that they stand out from most other things in your dish, you shouold be able to tell if you're about to put a pod on someone's plate (or just let folks know to watch for them). This saves you from the fishing expedition, allows people that enjoy them to just eat them and saves some time. Note, they sort of just stain a little, they don't take on much color, but it's enough to make them stand out from other small green things :)
You can also pierce them with a bamboo toothpick and cut the toothpick off a few millimeters away from the shell to make them stand out fall away more easily, but that doesn't always work if they're cooked rigorously. Leave enough toothpick to be easily spotted - eating one of those in a bite would be worse than eating one of the pods. This is handy mostly for slow cooking.
Finally, you can cook them out in a stock, which you add to the dish - it's very easy to strain them out that way. May or may not work depending on your recipe.
I think it depends on the dish. If it is a biryani or other rice dish, I'd be ok leaving them in because they are easy for the eater to see and remove. But if it is a wet curry for example, I'd probably do what Manako says - extract the seeds at the beginning rather than try to fish around for the pod later.