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I’m seriously considering a new blog series in which I assign music to a food that goes with it. Let’s try it. Episode 1: Sunchokes.

If sunchokes were a band, they would be Alt-J. Both obscure except in certain circles, but absolutely killer. Quirky, creamy, crispy. Subtly sweet. A low, earthy hum punctuated by a kick of salt. Certain to make your next dinner party more interesting.

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I haven’t seen them since the last Farmer’s Market of the season (talking exclusively about sunchokes now, but I would love to hear Alt-J pumping down our little Main Street) and I’m going to bet that’s the best place to look for them. I’m told they’re available through March or April, so definitely check your local supermarket or co-op. I don’t live near a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but they would likely carry them too. They are also commonly known as Jerusalem Artichokes, though they are not an artichoke nor do they hail from Jerusalem. Native to North America, they’re a tuberous root, related to the common sunflower. More names include sunroot, earth apple, topinambour; the list goes on.*

Ours made their way into a Kale, Sunchoke, Mushroom, and Farro Hash. Which was most definitely, based on how many dishes it called for, a restaurant kitchen recipe. When I think of “hash,” I think quick, easy, one-dish meal. But here you’re working with a number of ingredients that really do better if cooked on their own. And, as written, this would never have cooked properly in any pan the average home cook has in their kitchen. But it’s delicious. This is the recipe to bookmark if you need to bring just one dish to Thanksgiving dinner with an adventurous crowd.  It would also be great next to some roasted meat of some sort, and something red to drink. We had it with an Oktoberfest from Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee.

Also pairs well with Alt-J.

 

Sunchoke, Kale, Farro, and Mushroom Hash
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 6-8 as a main dish, 12-16 as a side dish

I’ve simplified this a little from the original recipe, but it’s still pretty involved. And it makes a lot. You could probably get by with a half-batch. We had enough for the 5 of us to have a main dish serving for supper AND lunch the next day.

  • ¾ cup farro
  • 1-2 pounds sunchokes
  • 1 pound kale, washed (but not dried—the moisture will help to steam it) and torn into bite-size pieces, tough stems discarded
  • 6-10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the sunchokes with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer til the sunchokes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
  3. Slices the sunchokes ¼- to ½-inch thick.
  4. Fry sunchokes in batches: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a single layer of sunchokes, and cook over medium-high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the sunchokes, and brown on the other side, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate in a single layer to crisp. Repeat as needed. Set aside.
  7. In the empty skillet, heat 1 more tablespoon butter and 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add the red onion and a pinch of salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes.
  8. To the onions in the skillet, add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove onions and mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  9. Add 1 more tablespoon oil and add the kale to the skillet, tossing occasionally until just tender.
  10. Add cooked farro, onion-mushroom mixture, and sunchokes, and toss to combine and heat everything through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*They have also been called–ah, I cringe to type it!–fartichokes. (Now that will forever be associated with my name in the annals of the internet.) This is simply due to their high levels of a carbohydrate called inulin. They didn’t seem to cause any gastrointestinal distress for us, but I feel the need to say they are probably best as a part of a dish, instead of making up much of the whole. Okay, end of Public Service Announcement.

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