About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

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Sunchoke Gratin

Happy New Year!!!!!


We have moved into the vegetable section where we shall play for the next three months. Through an unusual twist of cooking challenge planning we arrive at vegetables at the same time when most of the fresh vegetables in North America are but a distant memory. Knowing the importance of the freshest ingredients (see, I have learned ONE thing from this cook-a-thon) I cooked all of my recipes in this chapter ahead of time. In fact, there is only one left - Sautéed Shitake mushroom caps and I can get them anytime from the farmer north of my house.

It was funny though, in the spring I was trying to figure out the seasons for every one of my selections and I was stymied by my first one in the rotation - Sunchokes. I had no clue what a sunchoke looked liked. I asked around. No one knew what they were.

I turned to google and my searches revealed some interesting information.

A sunchoke is an underground vegetable like a cross between a rutabaga, potato, sunflower seed, and water chestnut. Also called a Jerusalem artichoke, it is not like an artichoke bloom, nor does it grow in Jerusalem. It's one of the few native tubers of North America. A sunchoke, related to the sunflower, makes a delicious addition to salad, salsa, marinade, and soup.

Native Americans enjoyed digging up and eating sunchokes for centuries before the colonialists settled. The sunchoke got its new name when a French explorer sent some plants back to his friend in Italy to cultivate in the Mediterranean climate. Thinking they tasted like artichokes, the Italian named the tuber "girasole articicco," meaning, "sunflower artichoke." We North Americans corrupted the pronunciation (now isn't THAT a first!), which they thought sounded more like "Jerusalem," but the name stuck.

I also discovered through my reading that the wee tuber has an unfortunate side effect and can cause terrible gas. We are all happy to report that this was NOT the case with this recipe - either Marcella's careful directions for preparing the sunchoke for cooking them kept this unfortunate side-effect at bay or our rock solid gastrointestinal systems are immune. Whatever, I was just happy to avoid an issue.

I also discovered why I wasn't able to find a sunchoke in the spring. . . they are in season in the fall.

I put this recipe on hold until September when I spotted some in the market. They quickly got added to the menu the night I made my favourite recipe so far - the braised pork roast with vinegar and bay leaves. They proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the full flavoured pork.

To make the gratin you pre-cook the peeled sunchokes until tender. Once the sunchokes are cooled they are sliced into disks. The slices are placed in a buttered oven proof pan and sprinkled with salt and pepper. All that is needed is to sprinkle on 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, dab with some butter, and bake.

This is a delicious way to add a vegetable to your plate - I suspect that even those vegetable haters in your household will go gaga for this one.

Here's hoping that your new year is filled with good food, fine wine, friends, loved-ones, laughter, prosperity, and plenty of mind-bending travel!

Buon 2011 a tutti!

Comments (3)

Mindy Smith:

Happy New Year Jerry (and Paul). I enjoyed reading your post this morning. An interesting history of the "girasole articicco". I am certain I would love this recipe. (I also love rutabaga) :)

Looking forward to more of the vegetable section recipes.

Great post, Jerry!
When started using Essentials several years ago, I saw that five recipes were devoted to the sunchoke. I wondered if perhaps they just happened to be Marcella's favorite vegetable (after artichokes, of course) to deserve so much attention. Then, I tried this very recipe and fell in love.
Sunchokes are amazing versatile and inexpensive.

Marcella Hazan:

You are a fine researcher, Jerry. I could have used you when I first started writing cookbooks, but you may not even have been weaned then. Sunchokes can produce gas, Julia called it rootytoot, but it is a harmless enough manifestation of the nether workings of our bodies. Italians don't appear to be as embarrassed by it as Americans are. You have to eat a lot of it to get the effect, but it is so good that it can be difficult to moderate one's intake of it.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 1, 2011 8:14 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Sauteed Sunchokes.

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