Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are something I had avoided for years. I’m normally very open when it comes to trying new foods, especially plants. But there was something about this knobby little tuber that just looked, well, difficult. Hard to scrub, challenging to peel, and maybe just not worth it.
Well, I’m here to say (and my husband and mother can attest that I don’t say this very often) I was wrong. Sunchokes are totally worth it, and in fact, they aren’t even that much of a hassle. Only slightly more work than your workaday potato. For pureed applications, all they need is a scrub. If you want to roast them, it is recommended to peel them the best you can, but peeling is not an absolute requirement, just a preference of some.
Sunchokes are the tuber of a certain kind of sunflower. When roasted, they are fluffy and nutty, with just the slightest hint of artichoke. Similar to a potato, but an extraordinarily flavorful potato. Pureed into a soup, they are velvety and soft– a perfect first course or winter lunch. They are in season now.
This soup is from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. This was one of my Christmas cookbooks. Dorie tops this soup with creme fraiche and a parsley coulis that turns a simple pureed soup into something really festive. I served this soup to a friend, and he loved it. His exact words were “I could take a bath in this soup.” Since sunchokes aren’t as cheap as a potato, making enough for a bath really isn’t practical, but they do make a special February soup. I didn’t adapt this recipe one bit. Dorie’s recipes are as close to perfect as it gets. I highly recommend any of her books. Wait, I lied. I used regular black pepper, and Dorie called for white pepper.
Sunchoke Soup with Parsley Coulis
For the soup
3 T unsalted butter
2 large onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 leek, washed well, split and sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
about 2 lbs sunchokes, well scrubbed and cut into 1 inch chunks
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
For the coulis
1 packed cup fresh parsley leaves
2 1/2 T olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Creme fraiche or heavy cream for serving
1. For the soup: Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy, large pot. Add onions, leek, celery, and garlic. Toss with butter, add salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the sunchokes and a little more salt and pepper. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You do not want the vegetables to brown.
2) Add broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and bring soup down to a simmer. Cook partially covered for 45 minutes, until sunchokes fall apart when stuck with a fork.
3) Puree soup in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Taste to check salt and pepper, and reheat the soup if you need to. Serve garnished with parsley coulis and a dollop of creme fraiche.
For the coulis: Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the parsley for 30 seconds, then drain and place in a bowl of ice water. This sets the color. Then use a food processor or blender to puree the parsley with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.