What's In Season: Sunchoke Recipe, from Sea Gallante of Italian Kitchen

This oft-forgotten tuber makes a splendid stand-in for potatoes and root veggies.

When it comes to Native American-European feasts, turkeys and cranberries get all the glory. The lowly sunchoke, aka Jerusalem artichoke, is ignored, a lonely tuber left to hunker down in winter’s frigid soil, lost to lore and holiday tables. Never mind that French explorer Samuel de Champlain celebrated it in Massachusetts years before those English Pilgrims got the entire buzz.

So it’s time to right those misguided  wrongs. Scoop up a bagful and show those sunchokes some love: in soups, roasts, and sautés or shaved raw into salads. Like their potato cousins, sunchokes don’t have to be peeled, and, if they shrivel a bit, just revive them with an ice-water soak.

They’re so eager to please that Shea Gallante just can’t say no. At his Italian Kitchen (698 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley 914-693-5400; ik-ny.com), the celebrated Manhattan chef finds them a stellar substitute for root vegetables and potatoes, and, when the mood strikes, rocks them in chips and garnishes. There are purées, too, but this Italian Kitchen is nothing like Nonna’s: The sunchokes for Gallante’s purée are cooked, smoked, and blended with lardo for tortellini bathed in black truffle butter. “Black truffle paired with the sweetness, earthiness, and mineral undertones of shaved raw sunchoke—they’re like twin brothers,” he says. And then there’s his crispy fried sunchoke confetti atop whipped chicken-liver crostini. Our holiday tables just didn’t know what they were missing.

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Purée of Sunchoke Soup with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Croutons

Adapted from Shea Gallante, Italian Kitchen
(Serves 4-6)

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled             
1 cup heavy cream
3 lb sunchokes, 6 four-inch pieces reserved for garnish
6 oz extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 leek, cleaned and finely chopped       
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 oz unsalted butter
¼ tsp mace               
¼ tsp nutmeg        
3 oz Marsala wine
4 cups vegetable stock

In small pot of boiling water, add garlic cloves and blanch 1 minute. Refill pot with water, boil, and repeat. Remove water, pour heavy cream into pot over garlic, and simmer 30 minutes. Peel and slice sunchokes (except for reserved pieces) and hold in bowl of cold water. In large saucepot over medium flame, heat 3 ounces of olive oil. Sauté leek and onion until softened but not browned. Add 2 ounces of butter, mace, and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add wine and reduce until evaporated. Drain the sliced sunchokes and add to pot with stock and garlic-infused cream (reserve garlic and dice for garnish). Simmer soup over low heat until sunchokes are softened, about 40 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Working in batches to avoid splattering, transfer to blender with 2 ounces of butter and purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2 cups canola oil
6 reserved four-inch sunchoke pieces
4 oz butter
1 small baguette, in medium dice for croutons
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 oz maitake, or “hen-of-the-woods,” mushrooms (another wild variety can be substituted)

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Heat oil in small pot over medium-high flame. Slice 2 unpeeled reserved sunchoke pieces into thin discs and fry until golden brown. Remove discs onto paper towels to drain. Peel 4 remaining pieces and cut into medium dice. In small sauté pan over medium flame, heat 2 ounces of  butter and toast croutons until golden. Discard butter, season croutons with salt and pepper, and reserve. In same sauté pan, heat remaining 2 ounces of butter and cook diced sunchokes until softened. Add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add reserved, diced garlic cloves. Season vegetables with salt and pepper to taste.

Bunch chives, finely minced
Pecorino cheese, for peeling

Place equal amounts of vegetable mixture into soup bowls. Ladle puréed soup over mixture and garnish with drizzle of olive oil, fried sunchoke chips, croutons, chives, and pecorino.

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