Monday, May 3, 2010

roasted sunchokes with rosemary and lemon butter

How to describe the flavor of a sunchoke?

• Sweet and tuber-esque.
• Occasionally artichoke-y, though no, the two are not related.
• Jicama-like, when raw. (Try shaving them over the escarole with pickled red onions—a nod to my favorite Otto salad.)
• Deeply chesnutty, especially when roasted.

To be honest, a precise description eludes me. In fact, it may be that elusive quality that appeals to me most. The sunchoke is its own very particular, and very haunting breed of delicious—one you have to discover for yourself.

Roasted Sunchokes with Rosemary and Lemon Butter

You may be tempted to peel these knobbly little fellows, but you'd be missing out. (The skin has great flavor.) Better to scrub them clean under cold water, as you would a potato. If you're looking to up the caramelized ante, cut the sunchokes into 1/4-inch coins or strips and decrease the baking time to 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 4

1 pound sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

1-2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Chopped parsley, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sunchokes with olive oil (just enough to coat) and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet with the rosemary sprigs.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sunchokes are tender and caramelized. Shake the pan halfway through baking to ensure even browning.

When the sunchokes are done, melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the lemon juice, then the sunchokes, tossing them to coat. Season to taste, then transfer to a warm plate and serve.

P.S. I didn't want to include this disclaimer, lest you be deterred in trying these, but I should warn you that sunchokes have a particular reputation. John Goodyer, the first person to cultivate sunchokes in England, wrote, “Which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men.” I say, throw caution to the loathsome stinking wind.

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