A series featuring forgotten vegetables to introduce a dash of variety into the kitchen for the last few chilly winter days. Let’s start with the Jerusalem artichoke, a root vegetable that is not what it seems. Its subtle flavour has seduced the chefs of the world.
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FIRST UP, THE JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE: THE ARTICHOKE THAT WASN’T AN ARTICHOKE
Ironically, this ginger root look-alike is neither from Jerusalem, nor from Brazil, as its French name – “topinambour” – suggests. It isn’t even an artichoke, although it tastes just like one. This perplexing little tuber is, in fact, native to North America, and is closely related to the sunflower: Italian speakers may pick up on how the European settlers in America managed to corrupt “girasole” to “Jerusalem”.
“This perplexing little tuber is, in fact, native to North America.”
The Jerusalem artichoke ruled the culinary scene during the Second World War, since it could be sowed year-round and in the poorest of soils. It was, however, soon eclipsed by another tanned, less knobbly tuber – the potato, which became a staple in most households. Thanks to its exotic status, distinctive flavour – a sweet nutty, crunchy taste – and remarkable nutritional qualities – it doesn’t pack the starch of typical tubers – the Jerusalem artichoke is, finally, regaining its mislaid popularity.
There are endless ways to prepare it. Think of it as a potato or parsnip when it comes to cooking – you can roast it, sauté it, purée it into a winter soup or fry it to serve as crisps. This is how the Relais & Châteaux chefs do it:
- Venison loin and tongue, matsutake mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke purée and wild blackberry from chef Normand Laprise at the Restaurant Toqué! in Montréal, Canada.
- Fried Jerusalem artichoke peel from Jacques Decoret who creates ingenious ways of reusing leftovers of all kinds to curb waste at Maison Decoret in Vichy, France.
- Saddle of venison with Jerusalem artichoke and olive dust from chef Simon Taxacher at Rosengarten in Austria.
- Roast Jerusalem artichokes, artichoke puree, slices of apple, slivers of crispy fried onion and bitter leaves at Gravetye Manor in Sussex, in the United Kingdom.
- Scallops and Aquitaine caviar with Jerusalem artichoke foam, lemon and hazelnut, by Nicolas Magie at the Saint-James Bouliac, near Bordeaux, France.