Sunchoke Chips, Week Ending 11/29/2020

I have a confession to make.

I bought an air fryer this year.

New appliances are problematic for people trying to live a lower-energy lifestyle. (I won’t bore you with details.) But our toaster oven was on its deathbed (COVID, most likely). After much research and handwringing I chose to upgrade to an aggressive convection countertop oven, aka an air fryer.

It’s even manufactured by a very trendy brand. I’m not proud!

But it was the right choice for us. And I tell myself I’m saving electricity cooking with it for small things rather than the full sized oven.

And it lets me enjoy sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) in new and exciting ways. That’s right … sunchokes are in season again!

A Game of Thrones meme with Ed Stark and the text Brace Yourself Sunchoke Recipes are Coming

In this week’s blog post, I’m sharing my method for air fried sunchoke chips. It’s not really a “recipe” because air fryers are all different, or maybe you’d rather make them oven roasted.

Step 1: Harvest

First, you need to harvest the sunchokes. This part can be easy or difficult depending on where you are harvesting them from. I planted them in my back yard for guaranteed access. The wild sunchokes in my area grow near water, which makes for wet, muddy, and cold digging this time of year. Asian markets and some organic grocers may sell sunchokes, if you would rather forage at a store!

A colander containing freshly harvested sunchoke tubers
Freshly harvested sunchoke tubers

Step 2: Sort

Clean and sort the sunchokes. I prefer the largest tubers for chips. Smaller ones I save for roasting or for soup. I opted not to peel the sunchokes, even though some sources say removing the peel cuts down on the inulin which makes them cause flatulence (and trust me, they will!). Instead I cleaned them very aggressively with a brush, which scrubbed away some of the peel in the process.

The largest of the sunchokes, ready to slice into chips
The largest of the sunchokes, ready to slice into chips

Step 3: Slice

Slice the sunchokes into even chips about 1/8″ to 3/16″ thick. I used a mandoline – if you can cut that evenly freehanded, more power to you! The thinner size makes a crispier chip but they are also more likely to burn so need careful attention in the air fyer.

Step 4: Soak

Soak the chips in enough water to cover, plus 2 Tbs of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This helps reduce the inulin even further. I think. I’ve read about boiling the sunchokes in lemon juice for this purpose, but a) that seems like it would take a lot of lemon juice and b) it just seemed complicated. I allowed the chips to soak in the water-vinegar mixture for 2 hours, then dried thoroughly. OK, maybe that was just as complicated as boiling them! I have no scientific evidence that the soak made a difference in the, um, bodily eruptions that sunchokes cause, but anecdotally it “didn’t seem quite as bad” as other sunchoke encounters. The word “disappointing” may have even been used.

Step 5: Cook

Air fry the sunchokes. Or pan fry them. Or deep fry them. Or oven roast them. Although if you roast them, I recommend using a convection oven and/or elevating them on a rack in a cookie sheet so the bottom sides don’t get soggy. Part of the air fyer appeal is it requires less oil to achieve the fried-effect; a mist of oil from one of those pump spray cans is often enough. Personally, I found it was more effective to toss the chips in a bowl with oil and a sprinkle of salt to make sure they were thoroughly coated. I then spread the chips on two trays, and cooked them on the “air fryer” setting for about 15 minutes, swapping the trays as needed to ensure the top tray didn’t overcook.

Crispy air fried sunchoke chips
Crispy air fried sunchoke chips

Step 6: Savor

The result: a satisfying crisp with a mild flavor, perfect for delivering whatever sauce you enjoy most. Personally, I like mixing Thai sweet chili sauce with ketchup… yes I know that is inconsistent with the whole “lower energy” theme of this blog but it’s really, really, really tasty! Next time, I’ll add a touch of cajun seasoning as well for extra punch.

What are you cooking up as the year draws to a close?

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