Friday, January 25, 2008

Jerusalem Artichokes

I'm so excited. I found a new vegetable! Well OK it's not a new vegetable. It's been around for a long long time. I found a vegetable that is new to ME. These lovely ugly little knobby things are Jerusalem artichokes. They are not from Jerusalem and they are not artichokes. What they are are the roots of a sunflower.
From the extensive research I did on the Internet, well from googling them anyway, I found that Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America. They are also store carbohydrates as inulin instead of starch and inulin is not used by the body for energy. So these funny little vegetables are recommended as a potato substitute for people with diabetes. They apparently have untapped potential in making ethanol for fuel. And they are high in iron, potassium, fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus, and copper.

For a long time Jerusalem artichokes were thought not to be edible because some people have trouble digesting inulin, thus making them highly flatulent. Yikes! I'm not sure I want to know what highly flatulent meant. I don't seem to be having any problems, but I know that inulin is commonly added to yogurts. (I read labels.) Also, there was an old wives tale that people who eat Jerusalem artichokes will develop leprosy because Jerusalem artichokes look like the fingers of people who suffer from leprosy. And finally Jerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes. Thank goodness for Google!

And yes, these came from my trip to Trader Joe's. I hunted around to see what I could find as far as recipes and not wanting to try them raw to begin with. It seems to me the highly flatulent part might be more probable if I didn't cook them. I also didn't really feel like a puree. You'd be surprised how many recipe books I have suggest pureeing them. Finally I located my Williams-Sonoma Vegetable cookbook. It's a pretty coffee table like cookbook, that I've never cooked from before. After this Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin, I may try more of the recipes. It was so creamy and rich, I enjoyed it tremendously. It also was fairly non-complicated to make. I adjusted the recipe in half and added more garlic and it came out delicious.

The Brain, made nervous by the highly flatulent comments, decided to let me have this gratin all to myself. And he would prefer that I don't discuss him and flatulence.

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Bring a saucepan 3/4 full of salted water to a boil. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and boil until just tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel them, rubbing the skins off with your fingers or removing the skins with a pairing knife. Cut into rounds 1/4 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter a small gratin dish about 4 inches wide by 6 inches long (or about that size, I used a stoneware dish my sister-in-law gave me as a bridal shower present).

Cover the bottom of the prepared gratin dish with a layer of Jerusalem artichoke slices, overlapping them slightly. Dot with some of the butter, sprinkle with some of the garlic and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Repeat the layering until you have used up all the ingredients. Pour two thirds of the cream evenly over the surface.

Bake until the top is crusty and the cream has become custard like, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cream, and return to the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C) and continue to bake until the surface of the gratin is golden brown, crusty, and sizzling, about 15 minutes. Serve at once, directly from the pan.


glamah16 said...

Hahahaha. Well it llokd good and I hopr you guys makeit through the night. He doesnt know what hes missing out on.

Peggy said...

Your Papa U grew these and ate them all the time after he lost his weight.

Mrs. White said...

I've heard of sunchokes, but never jerusalem artichokes. I'd be far too afraid to cook a vegetable I've never heard of, so kudos for your bravery. It looks delicious!

(And that picture of your spice cabinet cracked me up. As a woman who organizes the clothes in her closet by color, I can empathize ;)

Bellini Valli said...

Jerusalem artichokes look easier to deal with than other artichokes..although they are not an artichoke...just slice and go...I'll have to get braver and test the waters!

Deborah said...

I have heard of Jerusalem artichokes before, but have never seen them in the store here. Your dish looks wonderful, though!

White On Rice Couple said...

I love your informative post! I've heard of them but have never seen them up close and personal like this. I wonder if my local farmers market will have some, have to ask! I feel so much smarter after reading your post!

Pixie said...

Try serving him Jeruslem artichoke soup ;) Very informative entry and they are delicious, aren't they!

Anonymous said...

These grow nicely in your own garden, and spread easily, so need to be contained. They can reach heights of six feet, and are a wonderful privacy fence for the summertime. In the fall, they get cut down and pulled out of the ground. Easy to do. Well worth the effort, and yes, they are very good uncooked. I'd never cooked them before. Great in salads.