Earthy, sexy, silky, sunchokes beguile. To me, they’re like truffles in their scent and ability to make you crave just a little bit more. Peeled, simmered and pureed, these unlovely-looking little lumps transform into a beautifully aromatic soup. Or simmered and smashed with spinach, potato and garlic they make a delicious, original side.
Sunchokes–short for “sunflower artichokes,” are not artichokes at all, but tubers related to the sunflower. I first met them as a young mom, walking through a local market in winter. Thinking at first they were ginger–all knobs, and kinks and whimsical protuberances with that same papery skin–I about passed them by. But curious, I brought them home, made this soup and they completely won me over.
It was a good first step: According to Judith and Evan Jones of “The L.L. Bean Book of New New-England Cookery” sunchoke soup–long served as a first course on old Yankee tables–was called “Palestine” soup back in the day.
I’ve since tried them all sorts of ways, including this smashed veg side given to me by Chef Alec Sherman of Southport & Irving restaurant.
- Sunchoke Soup
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 pounds sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
- 2 cups good quality chicken stock
- 2 cups vegetable stock (NOTE: If you want to make this vegetarian, just use a full quart of vegetable stock and omit the chicken stock)
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp per serving of white truffle oil as garnish
- Smashed Potatoes with Sunchokes, Roasted Garlic & Spinach
- 2 pounds potatoes, washed but unpeeled
- 1 head garlic
- ½ pound sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream, divided into ½ cup measure and 1 cup measure portions
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups packed baby spinach
- ice water bath for blanched baby spinach
- additional salt and pepper to taste
- Sunchoke Soup
- Carefully peel and clean sunchokes. (Some cooks say you can prepare sunchokes for soup without peeling them, but I prefer a very smooth, silky soup and achieve that best by peeling the ‘chokes.) Heat butter in saute pan. Add onion and saute until very soft, adding a few Tbsp of water as needed to ensure the onions do not brown. Once water has cooked off, stir in the chopped cleaned sunchokes and saute for a few more minutes, again adding a little water to keep from browning. Add all of the stock and simmer for 1/2 hour until sunchokes are very soft. Using a blender (immersion or regular) puree the soup until very smooth. Cool slightly. Pour into a fine mesh strainer and press and rub soup through. This takes some time, but doing this last step will remove any bits of fiber or skin and will ensure your finished soup is very silky. Just before serving, swirl a 1/2 tsp of white truffle oil on the top of each bowl of soup.
- Smashed Potatoes & Sunchokes with Roasted Garlic & Spinach
- Make potatoes: Place 2 pounds of unpeeled, cleaned, potatoes in cold water. Heat water to just below boiling. Water will be steaming but not moving. Cook potatoes in steaming water until fork tender: about 1 1/2 hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss sunchokes in olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on sheet pan. While potatoes are cooking on stovetop, roast sunchokes in oven at 350 until soft. Also place head of garlic in square of aluminum foil and roast in oven next to sunchokes until soft. Remove garlic from oven and set aside. Turn oven down to 325. Remove sunchokes from oven and puree with 1/2 cup cream, using immersion blender, or food processor.
- When fork tender, remove potatoes from water. Place in warm 325 oven to dry potato skins. While potato skins dry, heat second pot of water for blanching spinach, on stovetop to boiling. While waiting for spinach water to boil, in a small saucepot, melt butter with remaining cup of cream until hot. Set aside. Blanch spinach in boiling water for two minutes. Using a strainer, remove spinach from water and plunge into ice water. Squeeze out water. Puree spinach using a food processor or immersion blended. Set aside. Remove potatoes from oven. Leave skins on. In a large pot, smash potatoes with a potato masher adding small amounts of the hot cream/butter mixture as you go until potatoes are fluffy. Add garlic and sunchoke puree and smash more. Fold in pureed spinach. Adjust seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste.