Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Cold Front

About a week ago, those of us on the East Coast were privy to unseasonably warm weather, just as the West Coast was suffering from a serious cold front (suck it California!). And although I was initially excited (can you tell?) for our West Coast foodies to feel what we feel in our kitchens and at the farmers market during this time of year (sadness, longing, despair, frozen digits), reality quickly rained on my parade. Sure, they'd face one measly week of bleak weather, gray skies and cold noses, but in the end they'd still find all of winter's delicious bounty at their farmers market. Their hands may have frozen in the process, but at least they were outstretched towards a Meyer lemon, kumquat, or blood orange, while mine still felt nothing more than the cold, rough, unappealing curves of a turnip. And so, my bubble was burst, my feelings of longing for winter citrus and hope for anything but a root vegetable returning to their natural levels.

After yet another disappointing farmers market visit this weekend (even the rutabaga selection has dwindled to zero), I returned home empty handed and facing the fact that I'd have to make due with what was in my fridge from the last sub-par farmers market visit: rainbow potatoes and a bag of Jerusalem artichokes I'd "forgotten" about (truth be told I was avoiding them). I'd already made a puree of Jerusalem artichokes to go with my steak, a soup to start dinner, roasted them as a side dish, and fried them--what the heck was left? The only other thing that could make them seem appealing would be if they had some added crunch and saltiness to counter their natural sweetness. I decided to go for a Jerusalem artichoke chip. This sounded almost exciting, but what would I do with it? The answer was salad and my crispy Jerusalem artichoke chips would be it's new winter crouton. 

It was easier than I thought to make these chips happen, in fact I didn't even bother peeling them. They do of course, require a good scrub to remove any dirt from the skin and a quick dry to remove any excess moisture. They're not super large like some of their root brethren, so I sliced them fairly thin on the bias to produce a larger chip. I intended to fry them up in oil, but decided to take a lazier and cleaner approach by making them in the oven. Tossed with a little olive oil and salt they came out thin and crispy in about 13 minutes. The flavor was still sweet and vaguely artichoke-like, not to mention it added great crunch to my salad of romaine hearts, sliced mushrooms and sopressatta, tossed with a simple vinaigrette. I think for the future I will season the chips with thyme and parsley and play with the thickness. But these were perfectly delicious and allowed me to pretend (even for a moment) that I was lounging outside in LA instead of under a blanket in NYC. Here's the very simple recipe: 

Jerusalem Artichoke Chips

4 medium to large jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8" thick
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees. Toss sliced Jerusalem artichokes with olive oil (just enough to coat, shouldn't be more than 2 teaspoons or so) and season with salt to taste. Spread slices on a parchment lined or non-stick baking sheet and bake until crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!


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