I do love my kitchen gadgets. But like most people, I have to admit, over the years I have collected and hoarded those little things, in fact, I have two drawers teeming full. However, in reality, most of these gadgets warmed the bench and never really saw any game time.
Thus, in an effort to really only own the kitchen gadgets I need, I actively exercised restraint whenever I came upon on the Benriner mandolin slicer at my favourite Japanese grocery store, Sanko Trading. It sat on the top shelf of the small single aisle store with a little hand-written sign appealing to my food obsession nature: “Benriner Japanese slicer! Excellent for slicing! Now only $29.99.” Every time I stopped in, I’d stand in front of the Benriner, read the sign and say to myself, “You know, it would be so useful at home. It would really elevate my skills in the kitchen.” I always wanted one, and I imagined its razor sharp blades easily slicing through the hardest vegetables dispensing them into fine, papery slices or perfectly uniform matchsticks or batons. It took about four visits to that grocery store before I accepted my fate and bought the Benriner.
With the Benriner now at home, it needed an appropriate debut. This week at the Market, we picked up a knobbly, knuckly vegetable called a sunchoke (also known as, a Jerusalem artichoke.) In fact, I must confess, I didn’t know what it was initially. My husband pointed to what he thought was ginger, but when I saw it, it didn’t look quite right to me. At first glance, I thought it might be galangal, a pale rhizome bearing an uncanny resemblance to the ginger. But when I picked it up, it had no discernable scent. The woman at the market must have noticed my bewilderment, “It’s a sunchoke,” she advised.
A quick search on the internet revealed that sunchokes are a starchy tuber, similar to a potato in texture, but resembling a ginger. Therefore, sunchoke’s starchy nature was naturally suited for a lovely re-imagining of a classic potato dish, Pommes Anna. And the Benriner did not disappoint. Smooth and sharp, it razed the hard nubby ‘chokes into delicate pedals in a matter of seconds. Within several minutes, the bowl of sunchokes turned into a pile of translucent papery shavings. Not quite ready to put the Benriner away, I also dispensed with a large garlic clove and a stalk of celery in the same efficient manner.
Oh the power of the Benriner! It is the one Ring to rule all kitchen gadgets.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this recipe does border on being fussy. We made this dish on the weekend when our night was all about a big dinner. Stayed tuned, I suspect a gratin dauphinoise (or potato gratin) will make it to the dinner table sometime soon.
Sunchoke (Jerusalem Artichoke) Pommes Anna
1 lb sunchokes – washed, peeled or unpeeled
1 large garlic clove
1 celery rib
3 tbsp butter
Handful of parsley
Salt and pepper
A squeeze of lemon juice to prevent the sunchokes from darkening
1. Very carefully, slice sunchokes on a mandolin (or food processor) into thin translucent slices over a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
2. Process garlic and celery in the same manner in a separate bowl.
3. Drain the sunchokes and dry well with a towel.
4. Add 2 tbsp of butter to a large skillet.
5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
6. Heat the skillet until the butter is melted and foamy. Turn heat down to low. Arrange approximately a third of the sunchokes, concentrically. Layer a 1/3 of the celery and garlic, repeat until complete.
7. Place a plate on top of the slices and weigh down with a large can.
8. Turn up heat to medium and cook for ten minutes.
9. Remove plate and can and dot the surface with the remaining tablespoon of butter
10. Place skillet in the oven and bake for another twenty minutes or until crispy and brown.
11. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Disclosure: I have no commercial affiliation to the Benriner; I am just a big fan.
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