When a friend of mine told me she had a bumper crop of Jerusalem Artichokes in her backyard, I saw an opportunity to try yet another overlooked, underappreciated vegetable.
I had never heard of Jerusalem Artichokes (now often called Sunchokes), though once she dropped them off, I recognized them from that isle in the produce department devoted to intimidating root vegetables. Jerusalem Artichokes are not actually a kind of artichoke though they are in the artichoke family. They are a kind of sunflower and are native to North America. They were grown by Native Americans before Samuel de Champlain discovered them and brought them back to France in the early 1600’s.
When picking sunchokes, look for ones that are firm to the touch and plump. They should be crispy when you slice them raw. As sunchokes sit around, they get mushy.
I figured the best way to cook this unfamiliar root vegetable would be to add it to a Gratin Dauphinois. I used the Gratin Dauphinois in Jacques Pépin’s book as the basis for my recipe.
I adapted the recipe by adding the sunchokes, the leeks and the nutmeg. Also, I made a few substitutions based on what I had on hand in my kitchen. For example, I didn’t have Gruyère cheese, nor did I have half and half or heavy cream, so I substituted 4-year aged cheddar for the Gruyère and 2% milk for the half and half. It came out great, so you should feel confident making these kinds of substitutions in a pinch.