A Jerusalem artichoke or a sunchoke is actually not part of the artichoke family at all and has nothing to do with Jerusalem! It is a member of the sunflower family and the Jerusalem part of its name is thought to be derived from girasole (Italian for sunflower i.e. “gyrating” or turning to the sun). In French, they are known as topinambours – this was a new one for me!
I have definitely cooked with sunchokes before – in a lovely soup or a shaved salad – but it is nice to know the proper French word to use. The NY Times wrote in the 1980s that the French etymology is also curious, to say the least: “At approximately the same time that they were introduced into that country, there was an exhibition of one sort or another being staged in France. And one of the features of that exhibition was a tribe from Brazil known as topinambours. The vegetable was thus christened and the name stayed.”
Nonetheless, topinambours à la barigoule is, ultimately, a comfort food, Provençal-style recipe you may eat at a family dinner. Here, I treat the Jerusalem artichokes kind of like their artichoke (very) distant cousins – they are braised in white wine and olive oil, with garlic, olives, parsley and other aromatics. As the liquid cooks out, the Jerusalem artichokes continue cooking, becoming almost caramelized and crispy in the process.
They are delicate and lovely, and remind me of the sun and the sea.
- 1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon,
- 0.5 cup white wine
- 0.5 cup of water
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 10-12 Black olives, pitted
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- salt, pepper (to taste)
- Cut up the Jerusalem artichokes into approx 1 inch pieces. No need to be too precise - this is a rustic dish!
- Put them in a saucepan that just fits them and add three tablespoons of olive oil, the juice and zest of one lemon, about a dozen black olives, half a cup of water and half a cup of white wine. Add more water, if necessary, to just barely cover them. Add salt and pepper to taste - just remember that the brine of the olives is pretty salty already.
- Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Uncover and let the liquid evaporate, cooking the sunchokes until they are just starting to caramelize.
- Season with ground pepper and a good handful of chopped parsley before serving.
Full of those big, bright flavors that take me right back to Provence. The brine of the olives and the zest of the lemons…