Sunchoke Purée

Don’t make me choke you…

In my family, holidays are defined less by the gifts under the tree than by the tabletop spread. Edible heirlooms like my grandmother’s coffee cookies and sugar-coated dates stuffed with peanut butter wait on the sideboard for a mid-afternoon graze or post-prandial nibble.

Christmas brunch is smoked salmon eaten with capers and crème fraîche in front of the fire. Cocktail hour means a round of Bloody Marys, followed by Champagne, shrimp and crab claws with mustard sauce. Dinner is usually something extravagantly large for our small tribe of three (plus welcome stragglers), with leftovers for a week of sandwiches. This year Christmas supper was a prime rib roast, cooked by my obliging mother in her Ronco, the countertop oven bought late one fateful night by a stoned relative glued to the manic Ronco infomercial (“Just set it, and forget it!”).

My contribution to the Christmas feast was a side of sunchokes, those blissfully knobbly tubers with a subtle nut flavor. Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, these roots have no relation to artichokes at all, other than in flavor, and both plants being in the daisy family. Along with beets and radishes, sunchokes are among my favorite winter vegetables, but it was my father who needed convincing.

Two nights before, Dad quite literally threw down his fork at my (delicious!) clementine-cranberry sauce for our roast turkey, citing an alarming presence of “heat” thanks to some crushed Pequin peppers. After two days of mutual sulking—his due to the apparent heartburn from the only slightly piquant hot sauce, and mine due to the criticism of a perfectly delectable homemade condiment—it was time to mend the bridge. After all, it was Christmas—no time to be at odds, and like any devoted daughter (who hoped for a shipment of wine in time for New Year’s from their vintner pop), I had to try to win him back.

My chokes had to be unimpeachable. Knowing Dad loves a good mash, I added some milk to my sunchokes and puréed away to try to get back on his good side. It worked. Sunchokes were delicious and wine is being delivered on Friday.

6-10 sage leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1.5 lb sunchokes, scrubbed
1 1/2 cup 2% organic milk
sea salt + fresh pepper
pinch fresh ground nutmeg

Heat olive oil in a small pan until it shimmers. Drop sage leaves into the oil and fry until they stop sputtering (30 seconds or less). Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Halve sunchokes lengthwise. Pour half the olive oil used for frying into a sauté pan over medium heat and add sunchokes, sliced side down. After 2 minutes, add 1/2 cup of milk, sea salt, and fresh pepper; stir and cover. The milk will steam the chokes and will keep them from browning. The milk solids also give a creaminess to the meat of the chokes. Cook like this, stirring occasionally until the chokes are very tender (about 10 minutes). Remove half of the chokes and purée with remaining milk (1 cup), olive oil, sea salt and fresh pepper to taste. Add a pinch of nutmeg. When smooth and creamy, add purée back to sauté pan to warm before serving. Serve purée with halved chokes and garnish with fried sage leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

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5 Responses to “Sunchoke Purée”

  1. Samg says:

    Oh, I love the crunchy, nutty flavor of sunchokes…once enjoyed a memorable salad of sunchokes & avocados in Sydney, Australia. Now I will try your combo of sautee and puree…wish I could have shared your dinner “en famille”, Ms. Lovage…

    Keep the tales & delectable recipes coming in 2013!!!

  2. Baselblast says:

    Can you say acid reflux? The sunchoke recipe was so worthwhile, although a pity for those (he) who suffered. Thank you, though, for our bliss /his miss.

    And actually, the hot clementine cranberry sauce does require a bit of documentation, were you willing, oh culinary sage — (not leaves)? Please?

    Bonne Année, and cheers!

  3. silver cat says:

    My dear Miss Lovage,
    You have quite perfectly captured the Morrell family dynamic!
    Toujours – Bon Appetit and In Vino Veritas !

  4. Sally Branson Lynch says:

    As usual you have made me hungry! It sounds like a lovely Christmas was had by all. Thanks for the continued wonderful writings and great recipes. Please don’t ever stop….. look forward to the New Year. Hope it’s a Happy one.

  5. Melissa Millay says:

    Having been the recipient of 3 days of glorious food, wine and fun, I must say that the sunchokes were one of the highlights of my Morrell Christmas Culinary Extravaganza! (I had never had sunchokes.) They were to die for! Smooth and buttery, with a hint of nuttiness and – seriously – a lingering taste of a crisp sunny winter day.

    And BTW, the cranberry sauce with the Pequin peppers were fabulous. This will now be my new way to make cranberry sauce!

    Brava Tarajia!

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