Sunday, December 7, 2008

For the Love of a Sunchoke

Dear Boo,

The rumors are true. I'm in love. Sure, he's a little funny looking. His figure's kind of knobby and a little bulbous. He looks tough, but don't be fooled--he's got thin skin. And he's always dirty. But it's all part of the delicious package. A little sweet, a little crunchy. Different from the others but can fit right in at the dinner table with the usual company. Sigh. I'm a lucky girl.

We met the other week at the Greenmarket. I was strolling through looking for something, but I wasn't sure what. These guys caught my eye, what with their splashy looks....

but I needed more. At the Ask a Chef table, I heard the name and fell. "Sunchokes", they breathed. "Jerusalem artichokes. They're delicious roasted. Or raw in a salad. Mild artichoke flavor...." I hightailed it over to the table and bought myself a bounty of these bizarre looking fellas.

At home I peeled the skins off (you don't really need to, except that it seemed easier to me than scrubbing each one, and the outer skin is a little rough), and sliced the chokes into about 1/4 of an inch thick pieces. It was hard not to eat as I sliced as they have such an addictive crunch and a milky smooth artichokey flavor with a little sweetness. I can imagine them in a yummy summery salad maybe kind of like this one.

But I needed a little winter warmth. So I threw them in a hot pan with some olive oil and tossed and waited, resisting the urge to pop one in my mouth, risking burnt fingers and all. Since I wanted them to get a little soft before they crisped up, I poured in a bit (maybe 1/4 cup) of chicken broth and let them simmer away. A few minutes later, I threw in some chopped fresh rosemary, some salt and pepper, and then when they looked irresistibly browned and beautiful, I pulled it off the stove and squeezed half a lemon over the chokes and a sprinkling of parmesan.

The verdict? Love. Pure, unadulterated adoration. Imagine if a potato (heaven, perfection, reason to live), and an artichoke (second runner up for perfect vegetable) made sweet sweet love and were blessed with a little one (perhaps I've gone too far. talk about food porn...) who possessed the best of both parent's qualities. And then you ate that thing. Disturbing implications aside, you'd be pretty happy. As was I.

So happy in fact, that I ate way too many and suffered because of it. Take heed.
For Thanksgiving, one of my assignments was a vegetable and so I thought I'd spread the gospel of the Sunchoke. Since I was working with bigger quantities here, it seemed easier to roast them with some olive oil and s&p. Which I did. at 400. While the chokes were in the oven, I got some olive oil and a bit of butter warm in a pan on the stove. To that I added some chopped rosemary (3 T?), and about 1/3-1/2 Cup of breadcrumbs, with some garlic and salt and pepper, and a handful of parmesan. Just before it was all toasted and yummy, I added lemon juice. When the chokes came out of the oven, I tossed them with the breadcrumb mixture. Not that these veggies need much enhancement, but if you're gonna do something, I say try this. The flavor combination was sooooo yummy, and a perfect alternative to potatoes as a different kind of side dish.
The next time you're at the Greenmarket, maybe try venturing outside of your carrot-focused comfort zone and explore some other root family folks. Roasted or sauteed, they're good people.

Love to you and my man 'Choke,



Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts. I love the new title photo. Good memories. As always, another great post that makes me hungry. Finally, according to labels, you can be cross referenced with potato sex, so that's good.