Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lunch With Topinambours

Lunch with what, you ask ? I think I've talked about topinambours before, but I'm not sure. In any case, these are great little tubers whose taste is reminiscent of artichoke.

Topinambours, or Jerusalem artichokes, before they are peeled.

In English, topinambours are called Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. They are the tuber of a particular kind of sunflower native to North America. I read that they are called topinambours because at the time they became popular in Paris, members of a tribe of natives from Brazil called the Topinamboux had become a great curiosity. Somehow the tuber was associated with the visiting South Americans, and the name stuck.

A close-up of Jerusalem artichokes.

There are theories, too, for why they're called Jerusalem artichokes, one of which goes like this : since it was Samuel Champlain who brought them back to France from Canada, and a French word for sunflower is girasole (one who turns toward the sun - although the current word for sunflower in French is tournesol, same idea), the name got corrupted to Jerusalem. Who knows ? As for sunchoke, it's just a marketing term that was made up in the 1960s.

Peeled and sliced topinambours coming to the boil.

Whatever the truth, these are delicious. They're available from fall through winter in our region and we try to eat them a few times a season. The only problem with them is that they can cause gastric distress in many people. You know, that's the polite term for gas. But they taste good enough to be worth the, er, discomfort.

The purée is ready !

So I cleaned up our latest bunch of topinambours, boiled them until tender, and put them through the food mill along with some potatoes. Then I added butter, cream, salt and pepper and, voilà.

Saucisses fumées from the market in Saint-Aignan.

We ate the purée along side a couple of smoked sausages from the charcutière at our local outdoor market. Delicious.

1 comment:

  1. they're great in a gratin, but I can never find them here


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