Experiment: Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes

I decided to try the above experiment as it allowed me to use two ingredients that have featured in recent ‘Foodstuffs’ posts, namely Jerusalem Artichokes and Truffle Oil. I wanted to do something Italian in character with this vegetable and I very much wanted to try roasting them. Just using oil and garlic seemed to be a bit pedestrian and so I decided to perk the basic idea by using lemon zest and butter along with the Truffle oil. I only had 6 or 7 artichokes and so, of necessity, I was confined to doing just an appetizer portion.

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The Ingredients

As you can see the ingredient list is pretty simple. In addition to the Jerusalem Artichokes, I use Truffle oil, Black pepper, Butter, a pinch of salt and a strip of lemon zest about 5 cm by 2.5 cm (1 x 2 inches). There is some preparation not apparent in the picture, as well as a couple of minor ingredients not shown:

First, I quartered the artichokes and placed them in acidulated water (about a half-pint of water with two tablespoons of lemon juice). I also added a pinch of sugar to the water, not because I thought much sweetening was needed, but because I thought it might enhance the caramelization of the artichokes as they roasted. I let them soak for about a half hour.

As for the lemon zest, I made sure that all the white pith was scraped away and then put the strip in a little dish and poured boiling water over it. I let that sit for a few moments and then squeezed it. The purpose of this is to remove any of the harsh tastes that raw lemon zest can sometimes have, as I wanted a bit of lemony bite to the finished dish, but nothing too harsh. After that step, I sliced the strip into the very thin slivers you see in the picture.

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The Method

 I first melted the butter in a saucepan, added the truffle oil and sautéed the lemon zest for a minute. Next, I added the artichokes and the salt and pepper and tossed everything until the artichokes were well coated. Finally, I transferred everything to a foil-lined pan plate for roasting.

I had to give some thought to the temperature and roasting time: With baby potatoes, I would likely use a temperature of 400, perhaps 450, degrees for 45 minutes or so. The quartered artichokes were a little smaller than all but the smallest baby potatoes so I opted for 375 degrees and checked on the progress after twenty minutes…

At the twenty-minute mark, the artichoke pieces were still mostly pale with just a little browning here and there, while the texture, when poked with a fork was somewhere just short of where I would normally take a boiled potato off the heat. I had decided ahead of cooking that I wanted to still have a little crunch to the artichokes but they were not quite brown and caramelized enough so I turned on the oven grill to high and sat them underneath for about 3 minutes. When they were sufficiently browned I took them out and plated them, pouring the remaining butter over them and garnished with just a few flakes of freshly chopped parsley.

The Verdict

Well… I suppose this was somewhat successful an experiment in that I had no idea how it would turn out and was still generally satisfied. My wife and I both liked it, on the whole. In truth, though, I thought it was unexciting and definitely not tasty enough to stand-alone (which is how we ate it).  The truffle oil did not come through very well but that may have been due to the heat involved, so maybe a little extra drizzled on the end might have improved things. I liked the lemon zest but the boiling step could probably have been omitted, as it was very unassertive. Also, the dish needed more salt than I used. In future, I would probably only roast Jerusalem Artichokes along with other vegetables (perhaps onion and carrot) and then serve them with a good roast of pork.

The bottom line, when all is said and done, is that I am not recommending that you try and reproduce this recipe exactly as I did. I am sure there are some who can improve greatly on the basic idea and I would love to hear about the results of your own experiments along the same lines. Unfortunately, it may be a while before I see Jerusalem Artichokes again so you may not see another post on the subject for some time.

Oh … By the way, I promised in my original post that I would report on the supposed flatulence inducing qualities of Jerusalem Artichokes and I am pleased to announce that they richly deserve their musical reputation. I was reaching tail winds of near gale force strength despite the small amount I ate. With a full portion, and a little practice, I am sure I could be bum-warbling whole operas for the amusement of my long-suffering wife!

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