Jerusalem Artichokes. Bacon. Onion. Arugula. These four ingredients tossed with a good-quality balsamic vinaigrette work together to make one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had since the Clinton Era.* The showstopper here is the Jerusalem Artichoke. You might also know it as the Sunchoke, a much better description of the bulbous, knotty, goofy looking tuber since it has absolutely nothing to do with Jerusalem, is absolutely nothing like a green artichoke and everything to do with, well, the root of a sunflower plant. Maybe you’ve seen them rolling out of a farmer’s market basket or suffocating under plastic wrap in your supermarket looking like a horribly mutated potato or a gigantic hunk of ginger and thought something along the lines of What the hell am I supposed to do with that thing? Well this is what your supposed to do with it. We’ve just met, but trust me on this one.
Arugula Salad with Jersusalem Artichokes and Bacon
(Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe)
Wash about 1 pound sunchokes and boil until fork tender, skins on. Once drained and cooled, cut them into ½-inch thick slices. Meanwhile wash about two large handfuls of baby arugula (or any other leafy green) and a small handful of sliced radicchio and set aside in a bowl you wouldn’t mind putting on the table. Now cut six or so slices of the best slab bacon you can afford into 1-inch pieces and fry over medium-high heat with a glug of olive oil for a minute. Then add one sliced sweet onion and the sunchokes and cook until the bacon and the sunchokes look brown and crispy, but not burned. (If you’re a cardiologist, you can cook the bacon separately or at least drain the fat from the pan before adding the vegetables). Mix the contents of the frying pan with the salad and toss with a simple balsamic vinaigrette (best quality balsamic vinegar you can find whisked with olive oil). Leave a chunk of Parmesan on the table just in case. Salt and pepper to taste. (Be sure everyone has their badunkadunks in their seats because you’re adding the hot stuff to the greens, which will go soft before Mom finishes that story about her book club or before your daughter gets back from her I-have-to-go-bathroom run. Serves four.)
Or….you can simply roast the sunchokes (cut in quarters and skins on) in some olive oil, salt and pepper until golden. Don’t be shy on the olive oil. Plated next to some grilled meat, pure goodness.
*Dinner at Eleven Madison, January 2001, Sweet Pea Flan with Morels and Berkshire Pork with Spaetzle.