Up until a few years ago, jerusalem artichokes were something only to be found in natural remedy- and health product stores, disguised as or processed into diabetes supplements or diet products supposed to curb hunger by filling your tummy prior to a meal. Or, in the case of the region a bit south of our corner of the world, turned into a seriously strong booze.
The fist popping out of those bottles at full tilt always kept me from giving the hooch the benefit of a doubtful taste-test, but the shape and health benefits of the roots have always piqued my interest. For the last couple of years, they’ve been appearing in “normal” store or market displays more often, so at last I’ve had the chance to play around with the humble bulbs~! I know there’s no sense in arguing about taste, but I have to admit, it took some time for them to grow on me – or, to be more precise, it took a couple of different ways to prep them until I discovered the one for my palate. These roots are edible in basically any way you can imagine, from raw to deep fried, anything goes – but every version underlines a different part of their flavor-spectrum. Raw, they’re a bit like a very bland slice of a cross between ginger and potato, both in texture and flavor – well, flavor-wise there’s not much other than a little zingy… something I can’t really put my finger on. Kind of nice, but… meh. Thin fried, dried or baked slices of jerusalem artichokes, my least favorite form, look and crunch like crisps but, to me, taste like I imagine dusty and wet sawdust would taste like. Cooked, however, they really start to shine. When it comes to versatility and consistency, they’re like potatoes while, in the flavor-department, they’re… well, artichokes without all the fuss~! And, apart from a couple of potato-replacement jobs, that’s the context I use them in the most these days. Today’s hug-in-a-bowl, too, used to be a regular french artichoke soup before I started tweaking it and dolling it up with punchy toppings… and before I got my hands on jerusalem artichokes~
The amounts listed will net you 2 main-dish sized servings, or 4 bowls of starter-sized proportions~
This one’s the soup-appropriately tweaked version of my usual Chimichurri, fitted to underline the Chorizo and boost the artichoke aromas with a dab of sweet’ish acidity. The Chimichurri develops its flavors over time, so it’s best to prep this the night or the morning before using it.
1 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Orange Juice
Opt: a few Scrapes of Orange Zest
¼ Bunch of Oregano, leaves picked and very finely chopped
½ Bunch of Parsley, very finely chopped
1 Large Clove of Garlic, very finely chopped
½ Tsp Pimenton
1 Pinch of dried hot Chilli Flakes
½ Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp dried Parsley
½ Tsp of dried Oregano
1) Add all of the dried herbs, spices, garlic and orange zest to a sealable container or jar – hold back on the fresh oregano and parsley for now.
2) Pour in the oil, juice and vinegar, give everything a thorough stir, seal the container and allow the aromas to develop in the fridge for a couple of hours.
3) Stir in the fresh herbs, lock the box again and let them work their magic for another 4-5 hours.
4) Just before serving, have a taste – adjust the seasoning and acidity levels if necessary – and stir in a couple of freshly chopped leaves for a dotty-green visual.
The Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
600ml Chicken Stock
400g Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and roughly chopped
100g Floury Potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp Crème Légère
3 Tsp of the Chorizo Oil
2 Shallots, finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely diced
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1 Tsp dried Thyme
Sherry Vinegar or fresh Lemon Juice to taste
1) Set a large pot onto medium-high heat and add the butter.
2) Once the butter has melted into a golden liquid, sprinkle in the shallots, garlic, thyme and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.
3) Close the lid for 2-3 mins and allow the shallots to turn glossy. To make sure they don’t get too comfy on the bottom of the pot and start to take on color, lightly shake the pot from time to time.
4) Remove the lid, pour in the stock and send the veggies swimming in it. Give everything a good stir and leave the proto-soup to work up a rapid boil.
5) Once the stock is merrily bubbling away, turn the heat down to medium-low, and, once the boil has settled down again, half-cover the pot with its lid and allow its contents to simmer for 15-20 mins until the artichokes are tender.
6) At this point, get the Chorizo topping going, so everything will be ready at the same time. Plus, you’ll need a byproduct of the topping to finish up the soup~
7) Once the artichokes reach a texture inviting you to keep on fishing out one bite after another, forgetting all about the bigger picture, set the pot aside and allow the soup to cool down for abou 5 mins.
8) Move the contents of your pot into a blender, add the chorizo oil as well as the crème légère and whizz the lot until it turns silky-smooth and creamy.
9) Pour the soup back into the pot and set it onto the lowest setting your stove offers.
10) Have a taste-test – along with a slice of Chorizo and a dab of Chimichurri, of course.
11) Adjust the seasoning if necessary and keep the soup warm until you’re ready to plate up.
The Crunchy Chorizo Topping
100-150g Chorizo, sliced into thin disks
200g day-old Chiabatta or Sour Dough Bread, cut into ½ cm thick slices
A splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Clove of Garlic, peeled but otherwise left whole
1) Set a griddle or large pan onto high heat – make sure all of your slices fit in in one layer, otherwise you’ll need to work in batches.
2) Drizzle the bread slices with oil and roast them until they’re crispy and golden on both sides.
3) Once that’s done, rub the surface of the slices with the garlic clove.
4) Cut the slices into bite-sized pieces and set them aside for the time being.
5) Turn the heat beneath your pan down to medium-high, add the Chorizo slices – again, in one layer or in batches – and render off the fat until the disks turn golden-brown and crispy. Whenever the edges of your disks start curling up, flip them over to the other side. If you’ve sliced them into rather thick disks, turn them over once the first side starts to turn brown.
6) Line a warmed plate with 2 sheets of paper towels and move the disks out of the pan onto the plate.
7) Cover the lot with aluminum foil and stow the plate in a warm spot until dinner’o’clock.
8) Set 3 tsp of the oil aside to season the croutons later and discard the rest.
Assembling the Dish
1) Place both the croutons and Chorizo slices in a small bowl, give them a quick toss and drizzle the lot with the fragrant Chorizo-oil you’ve set aside earlier.
2) Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle the surface with the crunchy topping.
3) Dot the servings with the Chimichurri, pick up a spoon and…