“We’re gonna eat those?”

The big boy is looking at a bowl of Jerusalem artichokes with alarm.

I can’t blame him. From certain angles, they look like knobby knees.

But this is our year of veggie adventures. Already, we’ve scarfed down baby artichokes and celery root — a far cry from our usual carrots, broccoli and fennel.

Besides, I’ve been yearning to cook Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes, sun roots and earth apples) ever since snapping up Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks Jerusalem and Plenty. So when I found a pound of them at the grocery store last week, I knew the time had come.

Jerusalem artichokes are a bit of a misnomer. They hail from North America, not Israel. And they aren’t artichokes; rather, they’re the tubers of the sunflower plant.

Rich in iron, thiamin, phosphorus and potassium, these knobbly vegetables pack quite a healthy punch. They clean up nicely, too: Their thin skin comes off easily with a vegetable peeler, leaving them creamy skinned and smooth:

sunchoke peeled

After riffling through both Jerusalem and Plenty, I decided to roast my chokes with lemon, saffron, olive oil and fresh herbs. Ottolenghi’s recipe called for slicing each sunchoke into six pieces, parboiling them in lemon-scented water, then roasting them with a quartered chicken for 45 minutes.

I was skeptical. Fool that much with a potato, and you get a mealy, mushy mess. But the chokes emerged firm, nutty and kissed with spice. Their texture reminded us of water chestnuts, albeit without the crunch. The husband, little boy and I gushed with praise.

The big boy? He was kind of quiet.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“You could maybe make this again.”

Roasted Chicken With Jerusalem Artichoke & Lemon (adapted from Jerusalem)

sunchoke platter1

Because I decided to make this recipe without carefully reading the list of ingredients, I didn’t have everything called for.

No fears … I subbed here and there! Served with a pile of sauteed green beans, it was a showstopping dinner.

  • 1 pound Jerusalem artichokes
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 medium chicken, quartered
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 large rosemary sprigs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

Prepare the vegetables:

  1. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes, then cut them lengthwise into 4-6 slices. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add half the lemon juice (1 1/2 tablespoons). Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 5-10  minutes, just until the chokes are tender — not soft. Drain and cool.
  2. Halve the onion lengthwise, then slice it into 3-4 sections, keeping some of the root intact on each section.
  3. Halve the shallots lengthwise, then slice each halve lengthwise again.
  4. Smash the garlic, then slice it roughly.
  5. Halve the lemon lengthwise, then slice it very, very thinly.

Place the chicken, the parboiled Jerusalem artichokes and the onion, shallots, garlic and lemon in a large bowl.

Add the saffron, olive oil, thyme, rosemary and water. Season with salt and pepper, then mix everything with your hands. Cover the bowl and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

After the chicken and vegetables have marinated, preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

Spray a roasting pan with nonstick spray. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in the center of the pan. Place the vegetables and lemon slices all around. Roast for 30 minutes, then stir the veggies, cover the pan with foil, and roast an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining lemon juice (1 1/2 tablespoons) and basil over everything. Stir well, then transfer to a platter.

Serve hot.

sunchoke table