An Elegant Starter: Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut Pesto

| December 22, 2013 | 0 Comments
  • Comment
Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut Pesto. Herb & Gruyere Gougères on the side. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut Pesto. Herb & Gruyere Gougères on the side. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend

I first had a soup very similar to this on a blustery New Year’s Eve at a cozy little gastropub in the Bermondsey district of London. Even though this was years ago, I distinctly remember the silky texture of the soup, with the gentle earthy flavor of the Jerusalem artichokes. I returned home, determined to seek out these vegetables, which I’d never really heard of before, and re-create the soup.

The Jerusalem artichoke, also commonly called a sunchoke, is neither from Jerusalem nor is it a type of artichoke. In fact, it has no relation whatsoever to either. It is a tuber, a lovely little root vegetable, that is a type of sunflower. Like other tubers, they must be cooked, but can be roasted, boiled, or fried into thin crisps. I particularly like them pureed, as they have an incredibly silky texture. I always peel them, but try to choose less nubbly ones if you can, as they can be a real pain to peel otherwise.

Anyway, a year or two passed, and one Christmas I decided to try to re-create the soup. I found a recipe from one of my favorite British chefs and authors, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, tried it out, and it took me right back to that blustery night. The soup is topped with a heavenly “pesto” that is made with cooked chestnuts, lemon, and parsley. And while the soup can certainly be served on it’s own (or drizzled with truffle oil like it was on that NYE in London so long ago), you would be remiss not to serve it with the pesto.

Over the years, I’ve adapted and changed and morphed the recipe into what I use today; and I make it and update it nearly every year. But the general premise stays the same: silky creamy pureed soup with a dollop of lemony pesto on top. This is great as a starter, which is how I serve it for Christmas dinner, but it can also be served as an elegant winter lunch (hence the range of servings). Be sure to make extra pesto and dollop it on some freshly cooked pasta or just eat it by the spoonful out of the jar.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chestnut Pesto ingredients. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chestnut Pesto ingredients. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut-Parsley-Lemon Pesto

Serves 8–12

Ingredients:

    For the pesto

  • 4 1/2 oz cooked and peeled chestnuts (I use pre-cooked vacuum-packed chestnuts)
  • 3 oz aged (hard) goat’s cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • Zest and juice of 1 large Meyer lemon
  • About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    For the soup

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 1/2 lbs Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, washed, and sliced
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled and cubed
  • 5–6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
To make the pesto, put the chestnuts, cheese, a big pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse about 6 times until it looks like very coarse bread crumbs. Add the parsley, lemon zest and juice and pulse a few times. With the machine on, slowly add the oil until the pesto is the consistency you like. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, then spoon the pesto into an airtight container. Pour a little oil over the top, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Click on any image to activate the step-by-step slideshow

Spoon the pesto into an airtight container. Pour a little oil over the top, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Spoon the pesto into an airtight container. Pour a little oil over the top, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

In large, heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter along with a glug of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leeks and sauté until starting to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and artichokes, another glug of olive oil, and season with salt. Stir until well combined and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to glisten, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

In batches, puree the soup to a very smooth puree in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream. Gently re-warm the soup over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in warm bowls, topping each with a big dollop of the pesto.

Finished Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut-Parsley-Lemon Pesto. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Finished Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) Soup with Chestnut-Parsley-Lemon Pesto. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

 Serve in warm bowls, topping each with a big dollop of the pesto. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Serve in warm bowls, topping each with a big dollop of the pesto. Herb & Gruyere Gougères can be served on the side. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

Related

Related posts

Explore: , , , , , , ,

Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, christmas recipes, holiday recipes, holidays and traditions, recipes

About the Author ()

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen. Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013. She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their toddler, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at http://www.kimlaidlaw.com.