Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash

This picture isn't here just to brag about what is still available at my local farmer's market, though I must say I'm pretty tickled at the variety I can still obtain locally a week into November. And I swear I didn't take this picture as a way to celebrate one of the last two weeks that the market will remain open before going on winter hiatus.

I'm just trying to gain a little bit of perspective. I mean, does that look like $30 worth of food? It has been so long since I have bought produce at the supermarket that I honestly have no clue any longer as to whether I'm leading us straight into bankruptcy with my food-buying shenanigans or if possibly, just maybe, the fact that I don't buy processed foods counterbalances these expenditures. Most likely I'm simply making excuses.

See, I nerded up last week and started scrutinizing every last food purchase for the past six months. This wasn't the first time that I got a little obsessive and dug around in my financial tracking software in a mad effort to spell out exactly where my food dollars are going, but I was after a different statistic this go round, namely to check how much of an impact the farmer's market and Locally Grown were having on our bottom line, and to find out what percentage of my food budget went to local foods during the October Eat Local Challenge. The organic raw milk I purchase for the kids is less expensive than the organic big-company milk I had previously bought at the supermarket, so of course I was somehow hoping that everything would even out when it was all said and done.

Of course I was wrong.

Looking back, it was easy to see that the CSA we participate in from May through July is a better bargain than buying individual items through the farmer's markets, and the reasons are obvious enough to pinpoint without much need for critical thinking. The issue for us though is that the CSA only lasts for three months, and I tend to still be hungry during the other nine months of the year. Last year, I fell off the wagon quickly enough when the CSA ran out, but that was because I hadn't bothered to fully research the other local food options. Now that I am much more aware of just how much is out there, and that the bounty includes eggs, dairy, milled items and even meat for The Carnivore, well, it turns into a war of Ethics vs Budgets. It is no wonder advocating local foods is viewed by many to be an elitist activity.

So you see why my perspective seems a bit skewed to me, right? At the market early this morning, with Little Miss Piggy bundled up in her Yoda hat and tucked into her sling, I slunk through the stands battling a crisis of conscience while slurping down a bite-sized empanada that I bought for a dollar. One dollar for essentially two bites. I abhor frivolous spending, but I want so badly to support my local farmers, to feed my family a safe and healthy diet, and to enjoy the superior taste of local and organic foods.

I'm going to need therapy. Thank you for listening.

And honest to goodness, this is not what I came here to whine about. [Whoops - I meant to say 'discuss intelligently.'] What I did intend to do was to share a peerless recipe for Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash that I think would be ideal for Thanksgiving (which, as you know, is, like, tomorrow or something), but I was unable to take an appetizing photograph of the dish and so I used this snapshot of my farmer's market finds and, well, one thing led to another and I ended up on this tangent again...

(Sigh)

Anyway, last week, shortly before I commenced this latest meltdown on the financial, environmental and ethical costs of food in today's world, I ordered some Jerusalem artichokes on a whim from Locally Grown. I had read about these tubers numerous times in food publications, but had, as far as I know, never actually run across one in real life. And I truly knew nothing about them when I placed my order, but was loathe to allow a little thing like ignorance stand in my way. So order them I did, though oddly enough under the circumstances, I have no memory of what I paid for them.

They aren't much to look at, and actually resemble ginger root so much that I suppose I may have mistaken one for the other in the produce section of the supermarket at some point and that might be why I assumed they were uncommon. Once I got them home, I gazed balefully at the little fellas for days, pushing them aside in the crisper drawer time after time before finally sitting down and searching for recipes.

'Twas more difficult than I expected to find a recipe that appealed to me. I came across soups that called for ingredients I didn't have on hand and countless recipes that had the odd and knobbly little root-thingies in the starring role with little more to support them than salt and lemon juice. I was too wary for those, instead hoping for more of a gradual introduction, so it was with some relief that I settled upon a Bon Appetit recipe for Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash.

Sounds fun, doesn't it? Truly, the end result wasn't just merry, it was the life of the party. I fell deeply, madly in love with the dish, with it's rustic texture and it's earthy flavor. I'm telling you, this would be perfect for That Turkey Meal, just bitter enough to offset all those other cloyingly sweet side dishes, yet simultaneously interesting and unobtrusive. The Jerusalem artichokes add a delicately nutty flavor to the recipe and keep a firmer texture than the potatoes, lending a toothsome quality to each spoonful that saves the dish from being just another soft and mushy bowl of mashed potatoes. Best of all, at least as far as holiday meals go, the simplicity of the preparation make for a nearly effortless side dish that can be made ahead and reheated without compromise to either the flavor or the texture.

I really think you'll like it. Especially if you choose not to obsess over it.

*****

CHUNKY JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE AND POTATO MASH (adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe printed in Bon Appetit, serves 6)
  • 1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and left unpeeled, cut into roughly 1-inch chunks
  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, left unpeeled (though you can peel them if you find potato peelings hinky), cut into roughly 2-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs coarse Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
  1. Combine Jerusalem artichoes, potatoes and salt in large pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  3. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
  4. Return vegetables to pot and mash coarsely, adding reserved cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time, until chunky mixture forms.
  5. Stir in butter, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add more cooking liquid if needed to get the texture you like.

10 comments:

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Mama JJ said...

Just curious---have you considered gardening? Your mom gardens, and it appears that you have land ...

Market potatoes and tomatoes are outrageously priced (at least around here) and quite easy to grow. Just planting a few main crops of your own would be a boone to your pantry (and mental state?) and would leave you with more money to spend on chocolate (priorities are very important).

-JJ

Sarah Beam said...

JJ, it has not escaped my notice that I should be gardening. Matter of fact, it is really getting under my craw that I haven't gardened since we moved to this house. In our old house, where we had about 17 square feet of yard, I gardened madly. Of course, I didn't have kids then. Now I have ample land and little time. 'Tis maddening.

I do have plans to start a garden this spring. It is utterly absurd for me to not be growing at least some of my own food. Failing that, I will have to make a road trip to raid your cellar. I saw the photos of what you put up this year, and I think its very cool.

Anne said...

this looks wonderful - i'll definitely be giving the mash a try, as i love potatoes & artichoke and jump at the chance to combine them.

Suzanne said...

I *heart* me some Jerusalem artichokes and made a big pot of Jerusalem artichoke soup the other day. (Of course I'm going to share the recipe, keep your hair on). It's delicious and simple and perfect.

The only problem is peeling the darn things. Because they are all twisty like ginger root but much smaller by and large, using a potato peeler is out because you lose a fair bit this way. I tried a vegetable brush, which didn't do much good but spiffed them up very nicely.

Finally I blanched them in hot water and peeled them with my own fingernails, spltting them into small sections with a knife to manage this. Also not a great method, seeing as you need three cups for this soup and by the time I was done had rinds of Jerusalem artichoke skin under my nails, darn it. However, it is the best way to not lose so much when you peel that I've found, and actually remove the skins too. If you find a better one, I want to hear all about it here, please and thank you:

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup: (from Recipes from Wine Country by Tony De Luca, Hillebrand Estates Winery)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup onions, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 leek (white part only), chopped
3 cups Jerusalem artichokes, peeled until your fingers ache and chopped.
1 cup potato, peeled and chopped.
6 cups vegetable or mushroom stock.
2 tbsp unsalted butter
kosher salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt the olive oil and 2 tbsp butter over moderately high heat.

Add the onion, garlic and leek, saute until the onion and leek are soft but not brown, stirring frequently. Add the artichoke, potato and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer until potato is cooked, about 20 minutes.

Transfer soup to blender and puree until smooth. Return soup to pot and bring to a boil. Add the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. When butter has melted, stril the soup and serve.

Sarah Beam said...

Suzanne, thanks for the recipe. Sounds yummy, and will come in handy since I just ordered more of these buggers from the co-op. My advice on the peeling: Don't do it. I'm going to try this recipe without peeling, and see what happens. I could be wrong - wouldn't be the first time.

Suzanne said...

I get two kinds of JA, one is pink and one is tan, in my CSA from teh heirloom vegetable farm, and the one has a harder skin than the others and I don't think it'd suit leaving it on, even well scrubbed and boiled to softeness.

This soup is really a nice simple use of it. I don't think you drink at all for some reason (maybe because if I know your mom she'd ground you?), but in case you happen to they suggest a sauvignon blanc pairing :)

alexandra's kitchen said...

Oh how I understand your struggle. i want to buy the locally made $7-a-pound fresh linguini every week, and I justify it since I'm not spending the money on meat or processed foods, but it's hard when I know I can buy pretty good dried pasta for a little over a dollar a pound. alas. it's a constant battle.

your mash sounds lovely.

Sarah Beam said...

Alexandra, I have finally tackled making my own fresh pasta and think it is well worth the learning curve (and the initial investment in a pasta roller & cutter). It takes me about an hour to whip up a batch, start to finish, so it kind of negates the whole point of pasta - you know, boil water, throw in pasta, eat 10 minutes later - but since I am using local eggs and flour, I can feel very virtuous at the same time. And there is NOTHING like the taste of fresh pasta.

Of course, then there is still the struggle of how much I pay for that local flour and those local eggs. It just never ends...

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