Monday, June 1, 2009
Have you ever tried a sunchoke? I hadn’t, not until just recently. I’d been wanting to try them for some time, but they can be a little hard to come by. So when I spotted the curious, knobby vegetables at the farmers market, I picked some up. They looked innocent enough.
I had always read that sunchokes are good in a potato puree, but I wanted to taste them all by themselves. The point was to experience pure sunchoke, without the flavor being masked by gobs of cream and butter. And to be honest, I’m sort of a purist when it comes to my mashed potatoes.
I decided that the best way to get to know my sunchokes was to roast them with nothing but a bit of olive oil. Of course, I tasted them raw, too. Roasted, they had an unusual texture, somewhere between that of a potato and a water chestnut. They were tasty, with a sweet, nutty flavor. Definitely good enough to add to my repertoire, but…
It turns out that consuming large quantities of sunchokes can have very, very uncomfortable consequences. Let’s just say—oh, how to put this delicately?—that they caused my insides to react just like the Hindenburg. Which is to say, explosively. My guts were all tied up in knots for no less than 24 hours. I’m no doctor, but I believe that’s what’s known as gastrointestinal distress. My husband only experienced mild symptoms.
The fact that sunchokes are still widely considered food and that cookbooks are loaded with sunchoke recipes tells me that lots of people eat them with little or no ill effects. I, however, am not one of those people. And if you are still willing to give sunchokes a try, let me give you this little word of advice: just don’t eat a whole half a pound your first time out.
2 pounds sunchokes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Toss together the sunchokes and oil in a large bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking tray and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8. Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes. For the best results, be sure not to overcrowd the pan.