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.