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Eating In: Sunchoke - The misunderstood tuber

By Kevin Grzyb in Food on Nov 17, 2005 2:00PM

sunchoke_11_2005.gifAs we've seen in the past, Chicagoist has an affinity for certain types of produce. You know about our love/hate relationship with the glory of homegrown heirloom tomatoes and our unbridled lust and fervor for fresh picked apples, but we have a secret zeal that we’re only now willing, and dare we say, strong enough to reveal: sunchokes rock.

If you’ve never heard of a sunchoke, also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, don’t be alarmed. They have been a minor player in the food world, only gaining notoriety of late. The sunchoke is a type of sunflower grown in North America with large yellow flowers (which are all nice and good) and edible tubers (which are what we care about). Chicagoist first found sunchoke at our favorite farmer’s market stand on a cold October day, pretty much the last day of the market season. Our farmer friend explained that they take all season to grow and, being a root vegetable, they pull them in the last week of September and first few weeks of October, because all of the above ground plants had pretty much run their bounty for the season and have been harvested. Sunchoke can be cooked, or used in recipes raw to replace water chestnut or jicama.

sunchoke-plate_11_2005.gifThe tuber is the part you eat, much like a potato. They are crisp and crunchy when raw and have a slightly nutty taste. We got a hold of some of these hot little delicacies from that same farmstand and set out to really try to see what we could do to push the envelope of cooking with sunchoke. The last couple of times we had them we sautéed them with some onion and served it as a side dish, the whole time pondering…there must be more that we can do with these magical little morsels.

Serendipity be damned we found a recipe that focuses on sunchoke in three distinct forms, sort of a ‘study in sunchoke’ as one of the modern culinary vanguard might choose to name it on a tasting menu. The recipe is from Jonathan Benno, chef de cuisine of Per Se in New York, which we were reading about because of the whole Michelin Guide hubbub and ballyhoo in NYC where Per Se was one of four restaurants blessed from on high with three coveted stars. Per Se also happens to be the NYC outpost of Thomas Keller, super chef extraordinaire of French Laundry fame. Chicagoist is hot to go to the French Laundry, more so than any other restaurant in the US, and if you’ve been there – we hate you.

The recipe we used can be found on We had some issues with the preparation as described and made some slight variations (described below). The sunchoke in this recipe is prepared in three variations and served as accompaniment for fish. Variation number one: our fishmonger didn’t have turbot on hand, so we decided to try the dish with black bass (on the first try) and monkfish (on the second try). Now, wait a minute, twice. We made the same dish twice? I know that you’re thinking we fucked it up so bad the first time that in our shame we had to try again, but no, we liked it so much, we made it again at our guest’s insistence, and because there were more sunchokes at the market the next week. Both fish worked, but I think that consensus said that the monkfish was a better match to the dish in lieu of the recommended turbot.
Basically, there are three preparations for the sunchoke; roasted, pureed and as a broth. Let’s all be honest - when you puree a root vegetable like a sunchoke or a potato, it’s just mashed.

First, you want to start by chopping all of the sunchoke first. It can be kept in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice added to prevent any discoloration or browning.


sunchoke-prep_11_2005.gifRoasted sunchoke:
 7 ounces sunchoke, peeled and cut into uniform pieces
 Canola oil to coat
 Salt and pepper to taste
Sunchoke puree:
 7 ounces sunchoke, peeled and cut into small pieces
 Pinch of sugar
 Pinch of salt
 1 Tablespoon butter
 Water to cover
 Scant ½ cup cream
Sunchoke broth:
 7 ounces sunchoke, peeled and cut into small pieces
 1 Tablespoon canola oil
 Scant ½ cup skim milk
 Scant ½ cup whole milk
 3 sheets gelatin
 1 Mediterranean turbot, butchered on the bone with skin left on
 Clarified butter
 Osetra Caviar

For roasted sunchoke:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss sunchoke with oil and place in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and roast until golden and crisp-tender.
strong>For sunchoke puree:
In a large sauté pan, combine sunchokes, sugar, salt, butter and water to cover. Cook over medium heat until sunchokes are tender and liquid has reduced to a glaze consistency. Add cream and continue to reduce to half the volume. Remove and puree mixture in a blender. Pass puree through a chinoise and set aside.
For sunchoke broth:
Brown the sunchokes in a Tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. Remove the contents of the sauce pot, wipe out the pot and return the sunchokes along with both the skim and whole milk. Bring the contents to a boil and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Blend the sunchokes and milk and strain. Dissolve the bloomed gelatin into the infused liquid and pass through a chinoise.
For turbot:
The turbot should be butchered on the bone with the skin left on. The portion size should be about 12 ounces by weight.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Roast the turbot in a sauté pan in clarified butter in the oven. When cooked just before through, remove from the oven and allow turbot to sit for 3-5 minutes. Remove the turbot from the bone and slice into four equal portions.

sunchoke-puree_11_2005.gif<<Chicagoist variations:
Roasted Sunchoke: We cut the sunchoke into slices the long way, less than a quarter inch thick and put them on a shallow cookie sheet, which worked fine, and flipped them after about 12 minutes, as the side faced down browned against the pan. They took about 20minute total.

Sunchoke broth: Do yourself a favor and brown the sunchoke in a Teflon coated nonstick pan. We also skipped the gelatin and strained through cheesecloth. This probably changed a bit of the texture of the “broth” but it was still good.

Sunchoke puree: Follow instructions from recipe above, by the time we reduced the cream, the sunchoke was soft enough to mash with the back of a wooden spoon, so we skipped the blender and straining steps and let the body of the sunchoke be more pronounced.

The fish: We did the bass and the monkfish in the same preparation as described in the recipe and both turned out luscious.

Plating:A layer of the puree with the fish on top, with the broth over the fish and drizzled around the plate, roasted sunchoke sprinkled ovr the whole dish.


Recipe via
Photos via author