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Sunchokes. Jerusalem artichokes. What the hell are they and how do I cook them? I think roasting or frying sunchokes is like sitting home on a Saturday to watch the news…it’s perfectly fine, but it’s not going to be memorable or impress anyone. This dish allows you to play chef. It’s simple and a conversation starter. It is not the norm, and that excites me. Since sunchokes are a good in-between seasonal ingredient I picked some up this week.

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I’m going to tell you to blanch the chokes until they are to your liking. I realize that’s not what people want to hear when dealing with a new, intimidating ingredient, but hear me out. If you blanch them for a brief moment and cool them down and they are still crunchy, then live with it and tell your guests you wanted a little crunch to their texture so they wouldn’t be boring. If you over blanch them and they are falling apart, STILL follow the procedure in this post. You can tell your guests you wanted them to be softer to absorb more of the marinade since they have such a strong flavor.

I promise you, if you rationalize the dish they will like it. In your house, you are the chef.

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Unless you are throwing the turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the table at a potluck and trying to justify it, you will always have one sentence to explain why your dish is the way it is. Food is conversation. Food is fun. Don’t be afraid to experiment. When chefs sit around and talk cooking stories, it’s always the very worst or very best dishes we took a chance on that we end up talking about. It’s never the expected, crowd-pleasers that get remembered.

Cooking is like fixing up house…there’s plenty of advice and resources out there to aid you, including professionals. But don’t ever be afraid to convince yourself you can make something out of nothing, especially when the that “nothing” is an ugly, nobby-looking root of a flower called the sunchoke.

Sunchokes with Grapefruit and Honey
{gluten-free}

Serves 4 as an appetizer

2 cups sunchokes (about 8 to 10 sunchokes), rinsed free of dirt
1 grapefruit
1 tablespoon of honey for drizzling
a handful of baby spinach or arugula
1 tablespoon of nice extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper

Slice the sunchokes about ¼ inch thick. Blanch them in salted boiling water to your liking (see notes above). While they are blanching, cut and squeeze half of the grapefruit on the serving plate until it collects and looks like a puddle.

When the sunchokes are done blanching, remove them from the water and pat dry. Lay them on the grapefruit juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a few leaves of spinach on the plate and finish by drizzling with honey and olive oil.

You may want to try one slice of sunchoke with your honey and grapefruit before plating the final dish to understand how the sweetness will balance with the tartness.

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