Simple Sunchokes

raw sunchokes

I was pretty surprised the first time I got a bag of sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) in my CSA back in November. Most of the produce we get is pretty Korean and it's an exciting week for us when vegetables that are either expensive here (like broccoli) or impossible to find (like kale) show up in our box and even in America, sunchokes are a pretty under-utilized vegetable. I had always assumed that sunchokes were native to North America but them showing up in my Korean CSA made me momentarily question my assumptions.

Some quick internetting taught me that my assumptions were right, they are indigenous to North America, but it hasn't taught me how they got to Korea or how they're used in Korean recipes (which might solely be because I'm searching in English). If somebody with either better research or Korean skills than me can answer these questions, I would love to know, and gladly update this post.

One of the things that really struck me while I was reading about sunchokes, was how many article or recipes warned that they might get mushy and should be cooked quickly to keep them crunchy or said that you should just use them as a replacement for potatoes. I think both these ideas devalue a truly delicious and unique tuber. With just a little bit of preplanning but a low amount of effort, you can really get the most of the sunchoke's artichoke heart flavor and change the texture from crunchy to creamy.

This is more about method the measurements.

The first step, of course, is to clean your sunchokes. The most recent batch we got looked already scrubbed but they're often filthy. I find the best method is to soak them in a large bowl or plugged sink to get off the first layer of filth and then I give them a good scrub with a brush and another rinse in a strainer. This method of cooking requires keeping the skin on, so getting the dirt out of all the knobby corners is crucial.

Next I halve them lengthwise and then chop them into roughly one inch pieces. They should be as close to the same size as possible for even cooking times but they're a pretty funky shaped vegetable, so don't worry too much if there's some variation in size. After you've got them all cut, put them in a container to marinate - tupperware, glassware, a mason jar, ziploc, whatever you've got around that you can close or cover and refrigerate.

For this most recent batch I then threw in a handful of chopped spring onions, smoked sea salt and cracked black pepper. For Thanksgiving, I had purchased every type of fresh herb I could find in Korea (not many) and added a handful of torn up basil leaves, rosemary, thyme, mustard seed, chopped leek, smoked salt and pepper. My spring onion ones were good, but if you have access to fresh herbs, you'll get a more complex, interesting flavor. Pour olive oil into the container until everything is almost all the way covered. Mix everything together. I usually use a gloved hand but you can also use a spoon or if your confident of your containers seal, close it up and give a good shake.

Refrigerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking and let come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 375 (Fahrenheit). Use a slotted spoon to remove the sunchokes from the marinade and spread them out on a sheetpan (I made the mistake of using a silicone baking mat instead of a bare sheetpan this last time, and they got nice and creamy but really didn't brown as well). It's fine if most of the herbs come with them. Sprinkle with some more salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until the sunchokes are browned and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

You can either serve the sunchokes hot or toss them with a little more marinade for a room temperature salad.

You'll probably have a fair amount of olive oil leftover but don't worry, it doesn't have to go to waste. Keep your herb-y olive oil in the fridge and use it to toss other vegetable before roasting or in a vinaigrette.