Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunchoke au Gratin

Who actually knows what sunchokes are? Being the start of winter, most of the veggies at the farmers market were of the "root" variety (turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes...) and sunchokes.

At first glance, they look like mini-nubbins of ginger. However, the taste is similar to a potato, but grassier and sweeter.

I was able to practice my knife skills since I couldn't figure out how use our mandolin... doh. So after slicing what felt like a million little sunchoke nubbins... I finally had the main ingredient for this dish, which comes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything iphone app.

2-3 cups cream/ half and half/milk/ or a combination
1 pound sunchokes (or potatoes) - washed, thinly sliced, and dried
1/2 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1. Heat oven 375 degrees. Put the cream in a pot and heat until it's hot, but don't let it boil.

2. Layer the potatoes and cheese (with cheese as the final layer) in a large, clear ovenproof dish. I decided to use Gruyere because I simply love this cheese. Sprinkle every potato layer with a bit of salt, pepper, and thyme. Once all the layers are complete, pour enough hot cream/milk to come about 1/2 way up the dish. 

3. Put in oven and cook, undisturbed until the sunchokes are tender. A thin-bladed knife will be able to cut into the layers with little or no resistance. Bake until the top is nicely browned, approximately 45-50 minutes. 

This recipe required a little troubleshooting because the original recipe called for the milk to come up 3/4 the way up the dish. This was way too much liquid and made the gratin soupy. I had to pour the extra liquid out and return it to the oven to get rid of the liquid.  

Next time, I would also consider using another herb (or no herbs)... mostly because thyme is not my favorite. 

Regardless, the final product was tender, sweet, and savory all at once. Not bad for a first attempt at trying this interesting vegetable. 

Next up... trip to Taiwan!

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