You know those times when you are so grateful for Mother Nature for making really awesome things? Things that don’t really make sense, like the Duck-Billed Platypus. Or things that make you stare with awe and admiration, like a double rainbow. Or things that make you want to eat them everyday for the rest of your life because they feel so rare, even though they aren’t really… Like Jerusalem artichokes.
Let’s clear up a few things. As much as I love Jerusalem, the Jerusalem artichoke has nothing to do with it. Wikipedia has kindly informed me that it probably got its’ name from the Italian word “girasole“, which means “sunflower”.
If you haven’t tasted this thing already, do yourself a favor and taste it!!! It’s a funny little tuber that looks like ginger-root, has the consistency of a potato, and tastes like artichoke. Take a second to imagine the possibilities… Yes. Isn’t that awesome? Told you so.
One of the coolest and easiest things to do with Jerusalem artichokes is, as with many other things, soup. It’s got that perfect, creamy texture without adding any cream (vegans, rejoice!), and a slightly nutty flavor that is reminiscent of artichoke. This is a cool concept because although artichokes are de-licious, you can only take a little nibble of each leaf, and it takes considerable “work” to get to the yummy, rewarding center – the heart.
But with the Jerusalem artichoke, we can skip that tedious process and just get huge chunks of artichoke-tasting goodness! Some of them can come quite knobby, and that makes them a bit tough to peel. I recommend going for straight ones, even if they are smaller. Don’t be greedy – you’ll pay for it dearly later when you’re trying to peel around weird, uneven shapes.
Also, I highly recommend grinding whole nutmeg with a zester. Freshly ground nutmeg is soooo much better and more pronounced than the store-bought, already-ground kind. It pairs well with anything creamy or buttery, and most of us (as foodies) are so conditioned to that combination that we associate it with creaminess and decadence even when butter or cream is actually omitted.
Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup:
Estimated Time: 20 minutes prep + 40 minutes cooking
Kosher Classification: Neutral
1 Kg. Jerusalem artichokes
1 large onion
1 Tbs. olive oil, for sauteing.
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Wash and peel Jerusalem artichokes. As I said, I recommend using many small knob-free ones instead of few bigger super-knobby ones. It really makes it easier. Rinse them when they are all peeled.
Slice the onion. A good, not-annoying way to cut onions if you just need slices is to first cut them length-wise, against the direction of the rings:
Then turn each half on its “back” and cut the edges off, which will remove the thin, filmy skin that’s always so annoying to take off. I learned this method here.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onions. As you sautee the onions, add the spices. Cook until golden brown.
Add the Jerusalem artichokes and stir.
Add enough water to completely cover the artichokes, cover the pot and boil until the biggest choke you can find is soft when poked through with a fork.
Let cool, as hot soups tend to ruin most (student-owned) blenders and food processors by causing them to over-heat. If you know your device is hardcore and can handle it, skip this step.
Now it’s time to blend the soup. An immersion blender works here, too, but the result is less smooth. A food processor produces a much smoother result. Unless you have an enormous, industrial food processor, you will probably need to do this in batches.
Scoop as much of the pot’s content as you can at a time into the food processor, making sure to leave room for 1-2 cups of water.
Blend until it is pureed, then add as much water as you need to reach the consistency you want, and blend until smooth.
Because you’re working in batches here, you will need to put the finished batches into a different pot or bowl until you are completely done . After that, pour them all back into the pot and bring to a boil once more.
In A Nutshell:
- Wash and peel the Jerusalem artichokes. If necessary, cut them up so they are even in size.
- Slice the onions. In a big pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it’s hot (but not burning). Add onions and saute until golden brown. While sauteeing, add the spices.
- Add the Jerusalem artichokes to the pot.
- Fill with enough water to cover the artichokes, and boil until they are soft when poked with a fork – about 40 minutes.
- Let cool and then run through a food processor in batches until smooth (unless you have a huge food processor), adding water until desired consistency is achieved with each batch.
- Pour each batch into a separate pot or bowl. After the last batch is done, pour it all back into the pot for one last boil.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve garnished with cream or roasted pine nuts or hazelnut pieces. Or both.