Sunchoke and Potato Gratin
The sunchoke goes by many names....sunroot, jerusalem artichoke, topinambour, and perhaps my favorite, earth apple. With its lumpy and somewhat amorphous appearance though, it's hard to believe that this unseemly vegetable is actually the root of a beautiful variety of sunflower! Unlike it's lovely above-ground counterpart, the sunchoke is not the kind of thing that immediately draws the eye, and it's definitely not the kind of thing that makes you think "oooo yum, we should eat that!"
Don't let it's amoeba-like appearance fool you though! A little scrub, a quick dice, and a flash in the oven, and this tuberous vegetable rises to dinner table stardom. I'm fond of simply roasting my sunchokes in a hot oven (450 degrees or hotter) with a little olive oil and a crack of salt and pepper just until their crispy around the edges (15 minutes or so). I also like to turn the leftover roasted sunchokes into a quick hummus as well- all you need is a squeeze of lemon, a splash of olive oil, and a good blender. If you're aiming to please a crowd though, this sunchoke and potato gratin is a showstopper. It's the perfect way to satisfy adventurous eaters and traditionalist comfort-food lovers all in one bite.
The sunchoke is worth a creative effort in the kitchen. Its mild, sweet, nutlike flavor is very adaptable. Nutritionally it is a good source of iron and niacin. Surprisingly, sunchokes are free of any stach, and have instead a polysaccharide called inulin that’s digested slowly and lowers blood sugar, making it a highly recommended food choice for diabetics. In fact, a sweetener for diabetics is manufactured from the sunchoke.
Note: As a word of warning, too many sunchokes can have a diuretic effect, so even though they're delicious, eat wisely the first time around until you know how your body will react.
Store in plastic bag in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. They will shrivel as they dry out.
To restore crispness, soak in ice water. For long-term storage, burry sunchokes in damp sand in a cold but not freezing environment, like a root cellar, garage, or basement.
Note: The sunchokes featured in the picture are 2 months old. They were purchased at our Thanksgiving Holiday Market back in November and left in a plastic bag in my refrigerator crisper drawer- they are just as good as the day I bought them!
Sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) & potato gratin
Recipe developed in partnership with Copper Pot Cooking Studio, Springfield, IL
1/2 pound jerusalem artichokes, trimmed and sliced
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup cheese grated/shredded cheese
(We love gruyere or gouda, or anything from your local farmer!)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the butter in a large frying pan and add the onions, the garlic, celery and thyme and about a half tsp of salt. Let this cook for about 10 minutes, on low heat, until it’s softened.
Add the potatoes and sunchokes, which should be sliced into about 1/4 inch slices. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. Add the white wine, and let evaporate. Add the cream and stock and let simmer for another 10 minutes or so. The cream and stock should start to thicken a bit.
Turn out the contents of the frying pan into a buttered oven proof dish. Spread the cheese on top. Place in oven for about a half hour, until golden brown.
Nutrition and storage info from Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, Third Edition
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