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My students at The Chopping Block always ask me what I like to cook at home. My usual answer is tacos, grilled cheese, or something quick and easy. But every so often, I treat myself. I really enjoy cooking with seasonal vegetables because they taste better when they are in season, and you only get certain vegetables for a limited time each year.
If you are already getting tired of the fall “go to” butternut squash, I’ve got something for you to try. The sunchoke, a.k.a Jerusalem artichoke is a late fall and winter vegetable that is fun to play with. It’s a tuber. At first glance, they look a little like ginger or galangal, which are rhizomes. If these happen to be side by side at the grocery store, break a little piece off and smell them. The ginger will be obvious.
Sunchokes can be compared in flavor to jicama or fresh water chestnuts; slightly sweet with white flesh. You can eat them raw in a salad or they can be roasted, boiled or sautéed. I prefer to make a puree out of them.
Think fancy mashed potatoes. They pair well with cream, garlic, ginger, hazelnuts, parmesan cheese and lemon. I peel them, cook them until tender in heavy cream and a little salt.
Once tender, I strain them, reserving the heavy cream. Simply place the cooked sunchokes in a food processor and blend until smooth. I add small amounts of the cooking liquid until I get the consistency that I like.
You do have to be careful not to over process. Sunchokes have a high starch content, like potatoes, so the puree can become gummy if over mixed. I recently made this puree and served it with garlicky green beans and seared pork tenderloin. Delish!
Don’t be afraid of weird looking vegetables like Sunchokes or Celery Root. Be brave. Try something new!
Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.