What To Do With Jerusalem Artichokes

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The Jews have an expression: “Next year in Jerusalem!” The idea is that next year, whatever we’re doing or celebrating, we’ll do it in Jerusalem, the place where all Jews should aspire to someday go. (I do aspire to go there some day, though I think Rome may be higher on my list, if only for the pasta.)

Why do I bring that up here? I needed some kind of intro to a post about Jerusalem artichokes and that seemed as good a way to start as any. This post actually has nothing to do with Jerusalem, the city in Israel; it has to do with those knobby little tubers that you may have seen recently at the farmer’s market.

Here’s a picture I took of them with my shmancy new camera (are you enjoying the new pics so far?):

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The first time that I ever experienced Jerusalem artichokes, it was from the kitchen of one of our nation’s greatest chefs, Thomas Keller. I was at his casual, family-style restaurant in Yountville, Ad Hoc (here’s my post about that), and this is what came with the scallops they were serving that night for an entree:

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On the menu, they were listed as “sunchokes” but that’s exactly the same thing. In my post I wrote: “They were my favorite part of the whole meal….You won’t believe how good they are. I’m craving a plate of them right now.”

What makes them so good? In their raw state, they’re sweet and crunchy (almost like a tougher Asian pear); roasted, they get even sweeter and, if cooked correctly, they retain their bite, so you have something with a nutty, caramelized flavor and a lovely texture.

The recipe I used, when I made them myself, came from the Craft Cookbook. Though the book’s by everyone’s favorite Top Chef judge, Tom Colicchio, the recipe proper comes from his executive chef at the time; a man who went on to open his own New York restaurant empire (Hearth, Terroir) and who’s now competing on “Next Iron Chef,” Marco Canora.

I’ve actually met Marco several times–he was kind enough to cook with me for my cookbook proposal–and he’s a really swell guy. He’s so swell, in fact, that when I expressed doubts about the pork chops I was making alongside these Jerusalem artichokes, he Tweeted to me: “Trust your instincts. You’ve got the sense to make it happen on your own.” I’m pretty lucky to have him for a cheerleader!

So here’s how you make Marco’s Jerusalem artichokes…

Preheat your oven to 450 F.

Clean the Jerusalem artichokes without getting them wet (don’t run them under a faucet or they’ll steam in the pan and you won’t get that golden brown color!) I recommend wiping them with a damp paper towel.

Cut the Jerusalem artichokes into 1-inch rounds (cut off any knobby bits) and then, in an oven-proof pan, heat 3 Tbs of peanut oil until very hot. Add all the artichokes….

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and cook for two minutes, tossing them. Season with salt and pepper, pop into the oven, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often, until the artichokes are tender and brown.

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The best way to know if they’re done is to taste one. (Blow on it a few times, and you’ll be ok.)

These are a great alternative to a boring baked potato or a sad plate of steamed broccoli. Eat these tonight at dinner and, if all goes well, next year in Jerusalem!

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