Have you ever walked by these brown, knobly, awkward looking vegetables at your local market? If so, consider yourself lucky as they are not often available and can usually be found hidden in a small corner of the produce aisle. At a quick glance you may have mistaken them for ginger root, but on closer inspection you might have surely asked what if anything do these have to do with artichokes? Labeled as “jerusalem artichokes” or “sunchokes”, these Fall and early Spring vegetables can appear curious to say the least. These tubers, not actually artichokes at all, come from a variety of sunflower and look like small, brownish nubs. While seemingly daunting to cook with, they are actually quite simple to prepare, and once roasted exude a delicious earthiness that for some is reminiscent of winter truffles. Like truffles, the looks of these stubby vegetables can be very deceiving.
This recipe is the one constant on my annual repertoire for Thanksgiving dinner. Rather than stick to the same traditional menu, year after year, I often look for new ways to utilize autumn vegetables that I may have previously overlooked. It is a great time of year to enjoy the bounty of the season, and it is worth exploring your local farmer’s market to find options beyond the typical pumpkin, sweet potato and green bean line-up. While most my menu is inevitably reinvented each November, I always come back to this Jerusalem artichoke soup, as it reminds me of quintessential Fall flavors in way that nothing else does. It is rich and robust with surprisingly few ingredients. Being easy to prepare in advance further adds to its appeal around the holiday season.
The sunchokes have a thin skin which I prefer to leave unpeeled as it enhances their flavor when they are roasted. It is important to give the sunchokes adequate time to caramelize in the pot before adding the chicken stock as this will help develop a much richer flavor in the soup.
Before serving I whip up a small batch of sherry Chantilly, essentially whipped cream spiked with the best cream Sherry you can find. I spoon a small dollop of this on top of each bowl of soup to add another layer of cream and caramel that can swirled through while eating. A sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts highlights the wonderful nuttyness of the sunchokes, further enhanced by a final drizzle of hazelnut oil just before serving. All three of these garnishes not only enhance the presentation of the soup, but contribute significantly to the flavor you experience in each spoonful.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, washed, dried and unpeeled
4 whole shallots, peeled
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ C cream sherry. plus 1 Tbsp
4 C chicken stock, or mushroom stock
1 C heavy cream, divided
salt and pepper to taste
¼ C whole, toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp toasted hazelnut oil, or white truffle oil
Heat a large sauce pot or medium soup pot over medium high heat for ~ 3 minutes. Roughly slice Jerusalem artichokes and shallots. Add butter and oil to the pan then immediately add sunchokes and shallots and pan roast the tubers until they begin to caramelize and turn golden brown. Add chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Cook for ~ 20 minutes or until the tubers are tender when pierced with a fork. Add heavy cream off heat along with salt and pepper. Puree mixture in a blender and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Whisk remaining half cup of cream to medium peaks and fold in 1 Tbsp of sherry. Portion soup into individual bowls, and dollop each with a small teaspoon of the whipped cream. Sprinkle a few hazelnuts over top. Finally, drizzle ½ tsp of white truffle, or toasted hazelnut oil along the circumference of each bowl of soup before serving.