I tried a new vegetable recently: Sunchokes, or Jerusalem Artichokes. They’re in season in the winter months here in Seattle, so lately these funky roots have been beckoning at the farmer’s market. People say they taste like artichokes. I say, they taste nothing like artichokes because there’s no hint of that sourness that, for me, defines artichokes. The sunchokes I tried tasted like water chestnuts or fresh potatoes with this amazing hint of mushroom/truffles. More umami than acidic. Yum! You can eat them raw or sauteed, but I immediately wanted to make them into a soup.
I based this soup mostly off of another recent favorite, Green Soup, which looks like algae but tastes like creamed spinach. Very healthy, very delicious. The Green Soup’s depth of flavor comes from caramelizing onions, and its creaminess from arborio rice, and so I borrowed those for the sunchokes. A bisque is traditionally a seafood soup, but is used nowadays to describe any creamy, porridge-like soup. Adding milk or cream for extra decadence is optional, because this bisque is flavorful enough without any. Browning the sunchokes in oil and then simmering them in broth brings out their divine savory, truffle flavor without any garlic or additional spices.
Sunchoke Pepper Bisque
Makes about 4 big servings
4-5 sunchokes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup arborio rice
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (my favorite lazy kitchen standby is Better than Bouillon’s No Chicken Base)
Milk or cream (optional)
Fresh cracked pepper
Olive (or any other vegetable) oil
An immersion blender or regular blender
The first (and longest) step is to caramelize the onion. It takes a while, but this is a great cooking technique to have in your back pocket because caramelized onions are the a perfect, cheap way to add deliciousness to soup or sauces.
- Heat a few tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add chopped onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add a tablespoon or two of water and cover. Cook, stirring frequently until the pan cools down, and then occasionally, always covering the pan again, until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color. This should take 25 to 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Meanwhile, stir together the broth and arborio rice in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy or cast iron skillet until it’s hot. Add the sunchokes, letting them brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until browned on most sides.
- When the onions have a nice brown, caramel color and are basically like onion jelly, combine all ingredients (onion, sunchokes, broth, rice) into the large pot. Add a few pinches of cracked pepper. Simmer until sunchokes are tender, at least a few minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth or in a regular blender in batches (returning it to the pot). If you use a regular blender, you might need to add more water or optionally milk/cream to have enough liquid to blend everything well. Garnish with cracked pepper.
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