Pan Roasted Sunchokes

Today I offer more of a “method” than a recipe, so no “Jump to Recipe” link. Apologies to those of you looking for it! (I know who you are… I usually do the same.)

Any time we have a decent thaw, I dig up a new harvest of sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus). I love year-round foraging, and I love knowing even in the dead of winter I can find fresh food if the ground just softens enough.

Winter Sunchoke Harvest
Winter Sunchoke Harvest

Almost as important: I have finally mastered the fine art of the fart-free sunchoke. It really comes down to soaking them in water for as long as feasible prior to cooking them, and changing the water once or twice along the way. Since inulin is water-soluble (aka a “soluble fiber”), the water leeches it out of the tubers. But only so much can come out at a time, due to the laws of diffusion. My preferred technique starts an hour or two before cooking. I cut off any bad spots and toss the sunchokes into water to start softening the mud. (Everything is coated in mud this time of year.) I then scrub the tubers with a stiff bristled brush, chop them into bite-sized bits, and toss them into a bowl of clean water. When the water gets cloudy, I know it’s time to change it out for some fresh water.

I’m always looking for new ways to prepare sunchokes, and this week I may have hit on a new favorite: pan roasting!

The secret to success for this approach: using clarified butter (also known as “ghee”) rather than your regular ol’ stick butter. Luckily ghee is easy to make. In my personal situation, I made it accidentally a few weeks ago when trying  to make pine-infused cream. (And I’ll be honest, I detected no hint of pine flavor in the finished product.)

Pan Roasted Sunchokes
Pan Roasted Sunchokes

Ghee is key to this approach because the milk solids in butter can end up smoking and burning if the pan is too hot, ruining the flavor of the food. I can’t tell you exactly how long to sauté your sunchokes, because that depends on the stove’s heat, the conductivity of your pan, how frequently you stir, and how caramelized you want them. I cooked them over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, turning fairly often to make sure all sides of the tubers browned evenly.

Once fully cooked, drain the sunchokes on a paper towel to remove any excess clarified butter. I chose to toss the sunchokes with fresh thyme (creeping thyme from my  yard), goat cheese (someday I will have goats) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sunchokes would also be tasty with toasted pecans, or dressed in a light vinaigrette. You’re only limited by your imagination!

While the outsides are nicely caramelized, pan roasted sunchokes retain more crispiness than their oven-roasted counterparts, so if you enjoy food with firm texture, this is a great recipe – er, method – for you!

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