Celebrities go through identity crises and need to reinvent themselves all the time. Rarely do vegetables face the same problem. But for the Jerusalem artichoke, the rebranding process has been crucial to its revival. The first step? A new, friendlier name: Everyone, meet the sunchoke.
Will sunchokes steal the spotlight away from kale, become the new cauliflower, or out-trend Brussels sprouts? It’s too soon to tell. Regardless, sunchokes are the next dowdy vegetable that wants to be a star.
The problem is, nobody really knows what a sunchoke is. I used to be a manager at a supermarket, and I can still tell you the produce code numbers of every fruit and vegetable we sold. Not once did I ever see anyone buy a sunchoke.
That’s because of the confusing name they’ve always gone by — the Jerusalem artichoke — a name that trickled down from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole, which somehow got lost in translation. But the knobby, gnarly tuber is not an artichoke. And it doesn’t come from Jerusalem. It’s actually the root of a sunflower plant, resembles a knob of ginger, tastes like a nuttier, sweeter, less-starchy potato, and is native to North America. Its embarrassing nickname — the “fartichoke,” derived from its rumored unpleasant digestive side effects — hasn’t exactly helped the vegetable’s image either.
“One of the reasons the sunchoke isn’t well-known is because people don’t know what to do with it,” said Jonathan Deutsch.
Deutsch teaches a culinary improvisation class at Drexel University, where he is the program director of the Department of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Food Science. He recently assigned his students to develop sunchoke recipes for Harris Cutler, president of Race-West, a produce distributor located in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.
“We’re trying to figure out how to introduce sunchokes to the culinary market,” said Cutler. “The younger generation loves Brussels sprouts because they learned how to cook them the right way. We want the same for sunchokes.”
The diverse group of culinary arts, food science, and hospitality majors set out to solve the real-world problem of what to make with a sunchoke. They wanted to approach the root vegetable using different cooking techniques and develop recipes that featured sunchokes not as the accent or garnish, but as the central focus of the dish.
“We think of this project as trying to emphasize the sunchoke,” said Deutsch. “With different perspectives here to collaborate, it’s intended to foster creativity.”
While the culinary students prepared their inventive approaches to sunchokes in the kitchens behind him, Deutsch pulled a recent magazine clipping from Bon Appétit out of his bag. In the sidebar on the bottom left corner of the page was a highlighted block of text: “First it was brussel sprouts, then beets and squash, and now eggplant and okra. The next unexpected vegetable to have its raw moment on menus? I’m betting on Jerusalem artichokes, a.k.a. sunchokes.”
“Yes, exactly!” said an excited Cutler.
The bold prediction that sunchokes are going to be the next big raw vegetable isn’t totally off base. Just like jicama, they can be enjoyed raw, sliced into slaws or salads. But that’s not the only use for the tuber. You can slice them, dice them, peel them, purée them, fry them, bake them, or not cook them at all.
“It’s kind of like a potato,” said Deutsch. “When it’s puréed, sunchoke has a bit more flavor and doesn’t have that gooiness mashed potatoes have, but in terms of starch, you can use it in any way.”
The dishes the culinary students presented successfully integrated sunchokes into potato-inspired recipes, as well as non-traditional dishes — sunchoke salad, sunchoke au gratin, sunchoke biscuits, sunchoke slaw, sunchoke chips, and even sunchoke ice cream.
Each creation was inspiring, and shed light on how versatile the sunchoke can be. There wasn’t a single dish I didn’t want seconds of, and not a single one I wouldn’t try preparing myself. And, perhaps this is too much information, but not a single dish caused the sunchoke to act out its infamous nickname on me.
Are sunchokes ready for their close-up? “I don’t see them being produced commercially,” said Cutler. “It’s not the new French fry.”
While they may not replace of-the-moment vegetables anytime soon, sunchokes are still a pretty tempting tuber to try.
Basic Mashed Sunchokes
- 1 pound peeled sunchokes, cut into a large dice
- 1 cup hot milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, cover sunchokes in salted cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until fork tender, about 12 minutes.
Puree, ideally with a ricer or food mill (a food processor is okay in a pinch). Add hot milk and melted butter and season to taste.
Recipe by Jonathon Deutsch
- 1 pound sunchokes, half julienned, half diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 stalks celery, bottoms and tops removed, diced
- ½ carrot, shredded
- 1 small to medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly smashed
- Sunflower oil, 1½ tbsp for cooking and about ⅓- ½ cup for the aioli
- 1 egg yolk
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup parsley, chopped fine
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the diced sunchokes on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil and a little salt. Roast until fork-tender.
In a small frying pan, heat about a teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook until the mixture is soft, tender, and beginning to caramelize.
Place the roasted sunchokes, the onion and garlic, and about ¼ cup of oil into a blender. Blend into a smooth paste. Drizzle in about another ¼ cup of oil.
Add the egg yolk and blend until smooth.
Drizzle in the vinegar until the mixture is smooth, thick, and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the raw sunchokes, the celery, the carrots, and the zucchini in a large mixing bowl and add desired amount of aioli. Mix to ensure even distribution of the aioli.
Garnish with parsley and serve.
Recipe by Ted Green and James Kerwin
- 1½ pounds sunchokes, washed
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated; ¼ cup set aside for topping
- 1 carrot, cut into ⅛ inch cubes
- ½ bunch chives, chopped
- ½ onion
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Breadcrumbs, as needed
- White pepper and salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix breadcrumbs and gruyere and set aside.
Wash sunchokes. With the skins on, use a mandolin to thinly slice the sunchokes. Blanch immediately for 5 minutes, shock them in cold water and then leave in water until needed.
Thinly slice the onion and sauté over medium heat in oil and butter until it softens and turns brown. Set aside.
For the base of the gratin, make a roux with the 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons butter. Melt the butter and then add the flour. Cook for about two minutes, stopping just before the roux starts to brown. Add the cream gradually, whisking constantly. Make sure the roux is thoroughly incorporated.
After the base comes to a simmer, add cheese, carrot, and chive, and cook until it forms a thick cream sauce.
Add the onion to the sauce.
To assemble, pat the sunchokes dry (wait until right before assembly – sunchokes oxidize). Alternate layers of sunchoke and sauce in desired pan, ending with sauce. Top with breadcrumb mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and enjoy!
Makes two portions.
Recipe by Kaitlyn Hoefert and Noah Williams.
Sunchoke Biscuits with Honey-Ginger Glaze
- 4 cups flour (un-sifted)
- 2½ cups butter, cut into small dice
- 4 ounces pureed sunchokes
- 1½ teaspoon allspice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1½ tablespoons baking powder
- 1½ tablespoons baking soda
- ½ cup to 1 cup ice water (use just enough to wet the flour and bring the dough together)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 medium-size shallots, minced
- 2 ounces ginger, minced
- 2 ounces honey
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Mint sprig, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Boil water in a small pot, add sunchokes, and cook until fork-tender.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add butter and sunchokes. Combine until incorporated.
Begin to add the ice water, mixing by hand until it looks like lumpy clay.
Dust a clean, sanitized surface with flour. Knead the dough until it becomes a somewhat sticky ball. Dust with more flour if the dough gets too sticky.
Roll dough to about 1½ inches thick. Cut into desired shapes, place on a baking sheet and bake until golden, firm and flaky, about 20-25 minutes.
Pour glaze over biscuits and garnish with a sprig of mint.
To make the glaze
In a small saucepan, add ginger and oil. Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
Remove the infused oil from the pan and set aside.
Return pan to heat. Add chopped shallot, ginger, and salt. Cook until shallots are transluscent, about two minutes.
Add honey and ginger and simmer for 5 minutes on low. Turn off heat and pour a spoonful over the finished biscuits.
Recipe by Jessica Lawyer
Fresh Fish with Sunchoke Salad
- 4 medium to large sunchokes
- 2 large turnips
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium shallot
- ⅔ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon truffle oil
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh fish fillets (bass, scrod or halibut work well)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup mustard powder
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
To make the salad, mix all ingredients and let sit 20 minutes before serving.
For the fish, combine the flour and spices. Dust fish fillets in the mixture and deep-fry until golden and thoroughly cooked, about four minutes.
Serve fish over salad.
Recipe by Nicholas Rigas
Sunchoke Ice Cream
- 2 cups milk
- 8 egg yolks
- 5 ounces sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 large sunchokes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup heavy cream
For the crème anglaise:
Bring milk to a boil.
Whisk the egg yolk and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture with approximately ⅓ of the hot milk, and then return the entire mixture to the saucepan with the remaining milk.
Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the sauce to boil.
As soon as the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Chill the sauce over an ice bath, then cover and keep refrigerated.
For the sunchoke puree:
Peel and dice the sunchokes into ¼ inch cubes.
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter, add the diced sunchokes.
Sauté the sunchokes and let them caramelize. Once they have a nice brown color and are soft, add the sugar and lemon juice and stir.
Transfer the sautéed sunchokes into a metal bowl and cool over an ice bath.
Using a blender, puree the sunchokes with the heavy cream until smooth. Add the puree to the crème anglaise and stir to combine.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Recipe by Alexandra Zeitz
Photos by Rachel Wisniewski