Category Archives: Market Hauls

Sunchokes: A Culinary Wrong, Righted

While I am rather behind in my writing, I did eventually get around to make the $8/pound sunchokes, and I learned a valuable lesson in doing so:

Don’t leave a vegetable you’ve never cooked before unattended in the oven while you’ve got four burners going on the stove.

And add to that:

One of the down sides of disconnecting your ultra-sensitive smoke alarm is that you can’t tell how much you’ve burned something until you pull the pan out of the oven and get suffocated by the smoke.

So, the sunchokes were a disaster. I couldn’t even eat around the burned bits, because they tasted so…burned.

The next day, I went to see my friend Jessica, who moved from bustling Park Slope to a lovely neighborhood called Ditmas Park. When I got off the train, I felt like I was in another country. Tall trees, lovingly restored Victorian mansions with driveways. Parking spaces on the street. Well-manicured front lawns. Drivers who obeyed traffic laws (which is what kept it from feeling like New Jersey). Jessica gave me a tour, which included stops at a co-op grocery store, and the local green market.

And there, I found a crate teeming with sunchokes. Cost: $4/pound. I loaded up with the enthusiasm of a child set loose in a candy shop. I would right my culinary wrong, and  prepare crispy, golden brown roasted sunchokes.

For round 2, I changed methods, switching from oven roasting to pan roasting. Prep work was pretty minimal: rinse, scrub, chop into 1″ chunks. Heat skillet, add oil, then garlic, and allow some time for sizzling. Add chokes, salt and pepper. Allow a good 5 minutes for loud sizzling and a few pops. Shake pan, being careful not to let any sizzling hot pieces take flight. Stir periodically and cook another 8-10 minutes, making sure there’s a good sear (but not a char) on the chokes, and use a wooden spoon to scrape brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Transfer chokes to a bowl, return pan to the flame, increase heat, and add a generous pour of wine. Stand back from initial burst of smoke, then scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and stir into the liquid.

Deglazing. Best technique for making a pan sauce.

Once the liquid has reduced by half (it should also be a bit thicker), return sunchokes to pan and toss in the sauce. Side note: while sunchokes have a nuttier flavor than potatoes, they’re pretty mild, so season as you go, and test frequently.

Serving suggestion:
Co-starring sauteed chicken with shallots and steamed broccoli

Co-starring sauteed chicken with shallots and steamed broccoli

Guided by Sight

I’ve had the good fortune to live a short walk from the Grand Army Plaza Farmer’s Market for the last four years, and on most Saturday mornings, it’s where you’ll find me.

I may depart my apartment with a plan to buy certain things, but I never leave with a list. There’s not much point. I buy what looks good to me. I am attracted to bright reds and oranges, lush greens and the deepest purples. I left with the intent of buying a winter squash and some sunchokes, maybe an eggplant.

And instead, I came home with these guys.

Good morning!

Good morning!

Leaving the market with more food than I intended to buy is what happens every Saturday (and it’s also what happens every time I go to Fairway). And as I step out of Grand Army Plaza, securing all the vegetables in my bags, making sure nothing gets bruised on my walk, positioning the canvas sacks in such a way that their straps won’t slip off my shoulders, I start to get ideas.

Kale… slaw. But you just had kale slaw yesterday. But you always want more kale slaw after you eat in at Blueprint. You need carrots for slaw. Another stop to make.

Squash… Hmm. Roasting? Yes. Paul (my boyfriend) likes acorn squash with maple syrup. Do we have maple syrup? Let’s put off the squash till later in the week. It keeps.

Broccoli. I could make the broccoli and carrot fritters I saw in Cooking Light this week! Yes! And I am stopping to buy carrots.

But I could also make fritters with the zucchini I got. I do have potatoes home. And parmesan cheese. And eggs. Yes. This could be dinner tonight.

The apples. Can’t tell Paul I bought more apples. (Sidebar: We went apple picking last week, and our crisper is FULL of 20+ pounds of apples.) But these are honeycrisps! The finest foods to spring forth from the earth! Whatever. They’re my apples and I will eat them. Happily.

I didn’t find sunchokes at the market. Where am I going to find sunchokes?

So I made a detour and went to Union Market, one of those smaller gourmet supermarkets where you want to buy everything and realize you’d need need a million dollars just to raid the produce section. Union Market has everything. They had to have sunchokes.


And they did. For $8.99 a pound (yikes!).  I’m never particularly good with estimating weight in my hand, but I chose my chokes carefully, and ended up with about 2/3 of pound—enough to prepare a side dish for Paul & I for dinner one night this week.

Now, I’ve never made sunchokes. I’ve only had them at restaurants. They make a fantastic accompaniment to just about anything—steak, chicken, duck. Especially duck. Cooked sunchokes are tender or creamy like potatoes (depending on how much they are cooked), but what sets them apart from most root veggies is their nutty flavor. You don’t have to doctor them much to get the best out of them.

Time to look for recipes. Stay tuned.