On the rare occasions when I’ve had sunchokes before, I have enjoyed their distinctive flavor; their firmish flesh is sweet up front, and finishes with an artichoke-y tang that wraps itself pleasingly around the back of my mouth. Aka the Jerusalem artichoke, it has something of a sinister reputation for causing gas and stomach pain. According to the indispensable Alan Davidson, this is thanks to the high levels of inulin–a hard-to-digest starch–they possess.
As someone whose digestive system is generally one Milano cookie away from total chaos, this was not thrilling news, and added a new dimension to this challenge: how to highlight the sunchoke without having to consume very much of it? Upon further cogitation and browsing on teh interwebz, I was captivated by the suggestion, made by the lovely Clothilde of Chocolate & Zucchini, of a Spanish tortilla. She mentions in passing that the sunchoke gets on well with the potato, and what better way to showcase it than in a delicious, if fairly bland, tortilla of gently cooked egg, potato, and onion?
This turned out to be quite a nice idea, and the sunchoke’s flavor did come through quite clearly, though not overpoweringly so. Served in wedges with a green salad and some bread, this would be a lovely little lunch. Or, cut in cubes and served with garlicky chorizo, it would make any cocktail spread into a tapas party. We did all of the above and had a tasty Spanish-inflected dinner.
The rumors of gastrointestinal trauma, I found, are also true. Having had this for dinner, I was then up till 4:30 in the morning feeling like death warmed over. I am, however, particularly delicate. Caveat eater, all the same. Mr. T was very surprised how tasty this was, so perhaps if I make it again, I will pre-treat the sunchokes as Joe describes and serve it forth in tiny tapas portions.
Tortilla de Patata y Topinambur (I think…)
6 entree servings; 10 servings as part of a tapas spread
1 medium onion, diced
1 large waxy-fleshed potato (~6oz)
2 medium sunchokes (~8oz)
1 tsp lemon juice
Dice onion and set aside. Rinse the sunchokes and put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and water to cover. Peel them, and return them to the acidulated water as you go to prevent oxidization. In a 10″ (probably non-stick; I used a regular one, and it stuck) fry pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until translucent–about 3 minutes. Do not brown. Drain the sunchokes, cut them into 1/4″ dice and add them to the fry pan. Add 2 tbs water, stir, and cover. Cook 5 min, stirring occassionally. Peel and dice the potatoes and add them to the pan as well. Cook, covered, for another 10-15 min–till everything’s tender. Again, we’re not looking to brown anything. Once vegetables are tender, remove pan from heat and set aside.
Break eggs into a large bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Stir in vegetable mixture and salt. Wipe out fry pan and add 1 tbs olive oil. Return to stovetop over high heat. Pour in combined egg-vegetable mixture, pushing around with a silicone spatula to evenly distribute the vegetables. Cook for a minute, then reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, shaking the pan and loosening the edges till perimeter is set and beginning to brown.
(Here, you can either flip the tortilla onto a plate and slide it back into the pan to finish cooking the top, or you can cheat and use the broiler–up to you. I already knew mine wasn’t going to release cleanly, so I opted for the broiler… Fine Cooking has a nice tutorial here if you want to be more accurate and acrobatic.)
Position oven rack just below the broiler and set the broiler on low. Cook, watching closely, till evenly browned, about 4 min. Remove the pan from the oven and using a silicone spatula, loosen the tortilla from the pan. Let cool a bit before unmolding. When you’ve cooled it a bit, and loosened it as far as you can with a spatula, invert a large plate over the pan and, holding onto both tightly, flip both over. Hopefully, it will release cleanly in one piece.
If not, whatever, scrape out what’s left and moosh it back together. Cool a bit further (particularly if it’s broken) before cutting in wedges or cubes. Serve forth at whatever temperature suits your fancy.