Every so often, we get a vegetable from the CSA that is a little daunting to use. I’ve been perplexed by Romanesco, celery root, and black radish at first. There have been vegetables that I’ve been just overwhelmed with when the season and conditions were so perfect for them that they produced in abundance. (See anything I wrote about squash last year, but also I usually get fed up with lettuce and any baby greens by the middle of May) But even those things were either stored or grated into stir-fries or stews or salads so that nothing went to waste. The only vegetable that consistently stumped me was the sunchoke.
For some reason, when I’ve researched recipes for the sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem Artichoke) I found only old-style techniques that involved peeling it, which was frustrating and wasted lots of the vegetable because of all the deep crevices. And the recipes were either bland (boiling it and serving with salt and pepper) or seemed intent on disguising its mild flavor completely (gratin and hot sauce). The time and effort just didn’t seem worth the result. It wasn’t until this week that I learned that peeling is optional (!) which made me far more patient with experimenting with its unique and delicate flavor. The result is a side dish that’s as comforting as a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes, but with less work, more fiber, and less calories. I think I’ve found a new vegetable to love…finally.
- Clean equal-ish amounts of sunchokes and potatoes. Leave the skins on You may need to cube the potatoes if they are large…the pieces of potatoes and sunchokes should be roughly the same size.
- Fill a large pot with water, salted if you wish, and get those tubers boiling. Keep them going until fork-tender, then drain.
- Put the empty pot back on a low burner. Toss in some real butter and swizzle around the bottom of the pot. Then dump the veggies back in, and smash with an old-fashioned potato masher. The idea is to soften everything into comfort-food consistency, but still have lumps. Why? Well, the peels and the sunchokes will not get as smooth as the potatoes. Don’t even try. Go for lumps, and celebrate them. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
I am really happy that I have finally made peace with the sunchoke, as it’s practically the definition of eating locally and seasonally in Anne Arundel County. They were being cultivated by the Native Americans when the first explorers came here. The plants, which look like very tall, multi-stemmed sunflowers, grow prolifically in our climate. They are perennial, so they will come back year after year, with little work on the gardener’s part. And they are easy to store…just leave them in the ground until you are hungry! They will keep until mid-February, when they start to sprout. Or store them at home however you store your potatoes. Fresh vegetables all winter long…and no canning or peeling required!
Please share any recipes that you have for sunchokes. I’m eager to expand my recipe base for these slightly lemon-y, slightly potato-y, low carb vegetable.
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