Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Make Roasted Sunchoke Chips

Some yummy and sweet sunchoke chips
Sunchokes can be wonderful!  I have finally proven it to my family tonight in the making of oven roasted sunchoke chips.  You'll have to know the back story to appreciate this not so small achievement.

A few years ago, someone gave me some sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  Little did I know that to many experienced gardeners, they are as welcome as a gift of mint and lemon balm plants or zucchini in August.  I grew them the first year in an empty bed just outside my main fenced garden.

They grew just as tall as sunflowers (no surprise, because they're actually in the sunflower family) and had a pretty yellow Compositae family type flowers at the top.  Unfortunately, that very same year, I read a book on historical culinary plants in North America.  I was scared off by the side effect of flatulence that the sunchokes seemed to be famous for, and put off trying them.  Finally I got the courage to dig them up, and we dug up the whole bunch.  Unfortunately, sunchokes do not keep well and shriveled up before I decided what I might do with them.  This is an important thing to note when growing sunchokes...they do just fine staying in the ground.  In fact, they become very invasive, commandeering the bed you plant them in.  They can be a welcome source of food in the dead of winter, as well as a fun way to practice your baseball arm.

I have been so frustrated with my Jerusalem artichokes because they had taken over a new raised bed my father in law had built for my daughter.   I warned them that sunchokes had been there, but they decided to lay down some landscape fabric and risk it.  Anyway, the  sunchokes pushed right through it and enjoyed a happy summer in the entire raised bed!

Last month, decided I was going to use them and found them pleasantly easy to dig up, even when the first 2 inches of ground was frozen.  I shared some with forewarned friends at a seed swap, then made our family some sunchoke soup.  It was a flop.  I had made it vegetarian because my 14 year old is a non-meat-eater.  This past weekend, I attended a year round gardening talk given by the blogger at Northwest Edible Life, and what did she serve, but sunchoke soup!  Her soup was of course amazing.  The key difference seemed to be the chicken stock she used.  I'll have to try that way next time.

When I reported that I had resorted to throwing the sunchokes to my chickens with my very wimpy style of throwing, I was chastised by friends...they are so yummy, they claimed.  Well, my family hated the soup, so I wasn't eager to try again.  But they sure were prolific, so I tried the simple idea a friend suggested...the old standby of roasting in olive oil, pepper and salt.  I tried it, they liked it, and I consider it a victory.  Here's how I did it.

Sunchokes, straight out of the raised bed.  
Sunchokes are sometimes very knobby and tend to hold onto dirt.  I took a brand new stiff brush and scubbed them under water.  
I chopped an entire head of garlic for my batch that filled two cookie sheets.  It may have been 2 much for my 4 year old...either that or the pepper.  Use chopped garlic, sea salt and pepper to the proportion you normally would, keeping in mind that the sunchokes cook down and the spiciness will concentrate.  
Once the sunchokes were washed, I sliced them thinly, then rinsed again, then tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and the chopped garlic. (I would recommend patting them dry before adding the olive oil, salt and pepper, because they seemed to take longer to dry out than I thought they would)  I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.
I spread them thinly on the cookie sheet.  

And baked them for about 30 minutes, but this is because they were very wet.  I hadn't dried them after rinsing them in the colander.  I would recommend checking at 15 minutes, being sure to stir them around a bit so they will cook evenly.  
And there you have it.  Oven roasted sunchoke chips that, according to my husband, taste mildly like zucchini and have a lovely sweetness to them that you wouldn't expect.

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