We’re in the home stretch, the last autumn cooking through Around My French Table, so we’re making sure to cover the recipes with seasonal ingredients that won’t be available as the rest of the year unfolds. Somehow we skipped Jerusalem artichokes the last three autumns of French Fridays with Dorie, so now we have to make up for that oversight.
A few weeks ago, Jerusalem artichokes made their debut appearance when we roasted them with garlic. This week, they are the star of a simple velvety soup. Same nutty vegetable, two completely different textures. And learning from round one, I knew to pick tubers that had fewer warts and knobs for ease of peeling.
The soup starts off by sautéing a pile of ivory and pale green vegetables (onions, garlic, leek and celery) in butter. Once the vegetables are soft, chunks of Jerusalem artichokes get added and sautéed some more. The chokes were supposed to soften after 15 minutes before the chicken broth gets added. Mine were not soft, but I assumed the long simmer in broth that followed would fully cook them. I was right. The final step is to process the soup in the blender for a smooth puree.
Not surprisingly, all those white vegetables result in a bland looking bowl. Parsley coulis adds color to the bowl. Parsley leaves are quickly blanched then cooled in ice water, drained and patted dry. To make coulis, the parsley is pureed with olive oil. I must have packed my parsley leaves more than I should have. My coulis was thick and chunky, even after I added extra oil. It was more like pesto without nuts or cheese, rather than something that would drizzle. It didn’t look as pretty as it might have, though it tasted just fine.
This soup is light enough for a starter for dinner, which is how I served it. With crusty bread or crackers, it would also make a nice lunch. I still think it’s not worth it to seek out Jerusalem artichokes, but if you have a ready source, this soup is lovely.
I’m thinking that this October French Fridays with Dorie is running an “ugliest vegetable” pageant. Two weeks ago, it seemed clear that celery root was a clear winner, but with this week’s introduction to Jerusalem artichokes, there’s some competition! (And dare I mention that I have some kohlrabi bulbs in my fridge?)
Jerusalem artichokes are the tuber (or root) of the helianthus tuberosus, a native sunflower that grows along some of my daily dog walking routes. The sunflower provides the origin for its nickname, sunchoke. In the back of my mind, if I wasn’t able to find this vegetable in the store, I considered digging some up, but fortunately, I found some on my first try. It came from California, so not as native as down the street, but organic, and probably a little safer to eat than whatever I might have dug up from the side of the road.
This plant has been eaten as far back as the Native Americans, who taught early settlers to eat the roots as well. For me, this was the first time I’ve eaten it. The roots resemble gnarly, warty ginger roots. In fact, the cashier initially rang it up as galangal, another rhizome related to ginger. They were hard to peel because of all the bumps. I did my best, as Dorie counseled, and didn’t worry about it too much.
The preparation was simple. Jerusalem artichokes, quartered lengthwise, were tossed with slivers of garlic (done with the vegetable peeler because I was sure doing it with the mandoline would result in a hospital visit), olive oil, sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. This roasted in the oven for 45 minutes, until tender, tossing it once halfway through.
The flavor was nutty and earthy, definitely reminiscent of an artichoke. They added a touch of the homemade to a meal of leftovers from a restaurant meal. Though we enjoyed this new taste, I’m not sure I’d make a point of making these again. Peeling them was a pain, and at $5 a pound, I’m not sure I like them that much more than potatoes or other root vegetables. It was fun to try something new though.