At a meal I had this past November at Woodfire Grill, I was able to eat sunchokes for the first time. They were prepared so beautifully – roasted until soft with just the tiniest hint of butter and salt. I was intrigued.
Also known as a Jerusalem artichoke, I can only describe them as being a cross between an artichoke heart and a potato. When you look at them raw, they are nubby and horsey like pieces of ginger. When you really get into them, they have the starchy consistency of a potato but a more fibrous texture like an artichoke. The taste? Something mild and creamy – a taste all to its own.
I wanted to experience them again but in a different format. I hit the Internet in search of a recipe and came across Sunchoke Soup – a recipe from Per Se, Thomas Keller’s latest restaurant. Any recipe from TK makes me a little uneasy. Intimidating instructions and long-winded prep time, anyone?
This soup, while peeling and cleaning the sunchokes was a pain, was relatively simple – and so worth the effort. Through blending it with the heavy cream, you get a texture that I can only describe as "…it’s like eating air." I topped mine with extra whipped cream and chives (my chervil had gone south before I could use it) – but the garnish really is secondary. It’s Thomas Keller’s high end version of baked potato soup.
Sunchoke Soup (serves 8)
1 3/4 pounds sunchokes
4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 teaspoons thinly sliced garlic
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
5 ounces whipped heavy cream
8 springs chervil
– Scrubs the sunchoke and peel the outer skin. Slice them thinly and store in ice water.
– Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots to butter and sweat until softened (do not allow them to color). Drain the sunchokes, add to the pan, cover with stock, and simmer until softened. Add the cream, return to a boil, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully ladle small amounts into a blender and puree the soup until smooth and velvety. Strain through a chinois.
– Just before serving, bring soup back to a simmer and vigorously whisk in the whipped cream. Add to soup bowls and garnish.
Editors Note: This recipe also called for Virginia Ham Croquettes to be added to the soup. These croquettes alone had two days of prep time. I think the soup is wonderful alone so I have omitted the details about the croquettes. The entire recipe can be found here.