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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Brigadoon of the Vegetable World

I am obsessed with sunchokes. 

Sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes, whatever they are--and I'm still not totally sure, since the definition in my beloved Larousse Gastronomique that my brother-in-law Philip gave me for Hannukah a couple of years ago is maddeningly vague--I love them.  I want to write haikus to them, or perhaps a symphony in praise of them.

All right, I'm getting carried away.  The fact is that sunchokes are fairly ugly little brown tubers and pretty much unavailable in Alaska.  When I saw them in the list of possibilities for the CSA box that arrived this week, I was at least smart enough to order double of them. 

I can only remember eating these little critters a couple of times, and the last was about four or five years ago.  They're the Brigadoon of vegetables, at least in Alaska (as an aside, extra love to anyone who gets that reference).

They are hellish to peel, which the Larousse does say, and to which the small gash on my left middle finger can attest.  However, they were heavenly to eat.  The flavor is deep and rich and earthy, slightly starchy and reminiscent of really good mushrooms. 

I'm particularly proud of this recipe because I made it up on the fly on a night I didn't expect to be home.  Essentially, it's puréed sunchokes stirred into a basic risotto.  But the flavor?  Anything but basic.  I might have swooned.

Sunchoke Risotto

1/2 pound sunchokes, peeled to the best of your ability and cut in 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup 2% milk
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 1/4 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine, divided
4 cups chicken stock
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 peperoncini peppers, crushed
3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan
Truffle or kosher salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat a medium-sized pot of water to boil, then add the sunchokes.  Boil for approximately 20 minutes or until fork-tender.  When the sunchokes are cooked, drain them and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the sunchokes briefly, then drizzle in the milk and one tablespoon of olive oil.  Pulse again and taste, adding pepper and a little salt.  Then process until the sunchokes are silky in texture, like mashed potatoes without the lumps.

Pour the stock and 1/4 cup of the wine in a small saucepan and warm over low heat;  this will need to stay warm for the entire process.

Heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  Add two tablespoons of the olive oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the leek and shallot and cook until they are lightly browned, then add the rice.

Stir the rice well for several minutes, until it is coated with oil and gets slightly toasty.  Then add the remaining 3/4 cup of the wine and cook until it is almost incorporated.  Add the peperoncini.

Add the broth/wine mixture in half-cup increments, stirring constantly so the rice doesn't stick.  After two additions of broth, add half the sunchoke mixture and stir well to combine.  Add another two additions of broth, add the remaining sunchokes.  Incorporate another cup of broth and taste;  you want the rice to be al dente and may not need the additional broth.

When the rice is the desired texture, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Truffle salt really complements the sunchoke flavor, if you have it around.

Makes about four main course servings;  would serve six for a side.


  1. I admit that I have never had sun chokes, don't even know how they look like.I will Google now. But your risotto looks beautiful. I would definitely dig into that.

  2. Sunchokes are so delicious! I'm surprised they aren't used often in recipes. Great post!

  3. Another new item which I will need to try. Not too commonplace around here, but your description does make me want to try some. I like the risotto here, so I may just increase the leeks in the recipe if I cannot find sunchokes. Risotto does make for a great side dish-yum! I wish we had CSA program for this area.
    Enjoy the weekend and stay warm!

  4. I've never heard of sunchokes before, but I'm intrigued. This sounds comforting and delicious!

  5. I've never had sunchokes before, but I adore artichokes. I'll have to rectify that...they sound delicious!

  6. Ooh I'm very much curious now about sunchokes.Never tried them before, but if they're so flavorful, they must be delicious!Your risotto looks great!

  7. It's been ages since I had risotto, must rectify that this weekend! This sounds creamy and comforting, what could I replace sunchokes with? Have never heard of them before and highly doubtful I can source them here in my very rural neck of the woods.

  8. This is my second introduction to sunchokes in the last few days. Now I've got to find them. :) Beautiful looking risotto! Hope you're having a great weekend. ~Ramona

  9. You've convinced me I need to cook with sunchokes! I love risotto, and yours would be a lovely winter treat!

  10. My mom grew some last year and raved about them. I don't think I have ever eaten one or even seen one. You definitely have given them a seal of approval. Maybe I should try to find some seeds ??? (Do they grow from seeds?)

  11. i've peeled artichokes once or twice, and hat's off to you! hey, i was sorta waiting to read a haiku here, but was sorely disappointed...

  12. The sunchokes sound very interesting!:) I can see why you are so absorbed with these vegetables ;)

  13. I am alien to sunchokes and all the peeling did to come up with this lovely recipes, all the veges and risotto.

    Nice for a change to the rice we have infact all the time.

  14. I am not sure I know what a sunchoke is. However I will eat ANYTHING in a risotto.

  15. Cucina, I have a surprise for you ;).Check out my new post and email me ;)

  16. I've never had them - must try them. I love transforming ugly little vegetables. We were discussing Brigadoon last night at dinner... did it years ago - enchanting. And I wondered... if I could find it when in Scotland.

  17. I have never heard of these before, but I love risotto, and so this is a perfect recipe to try them in :)

  18. I think I am swooning, too! And I think your battle with the sunchokes was well worth it! What a fabulous looking risotto! : )

  19. @avillage pantry, I would make a parnsnip or turnip puree instead of the sunchokes. Both should work just fine!

    @Sofie, my haiku-writing skills are limited, but you made me laugh!

  20. I've never had sunchokes! I really, really want to try though, and heaven knows I love me some risotto! :) Looks to die for.

  21. This looks so delicious! I suppose if I'm going to lose my sunchoke virginity, this is the way to do it!

  22. I've never had sunchokes!! But I would love to try them in this delicious risotto!