Grilled Jerusalem Artichoke, Red Onion, and Olives

Carl Jung and Sting to the contrary, I don’t believe in synchronicity, but find the term a useful description of the series of happy accidents I occasionally experience. The sequence of events that led me to this recipe is just such an example: a few days after eating the potage of Jerusalem artichoke with olive oil and chives, I found Jerusalem artichokes at my farmer’s market. I wasn’t sure what  I’d do with them, but I couldn’t pass them up.

While consulting The Whole Beast for the pheasant and pig’s trotter pie recipe, I noticed this salad. It looked simple and well-suited as an accompaniment, but I didn’t have all of the ingredients at hand when I first baked the pie. I pulled everything together a few days later: six large Jerusalem artichokes, three peeled and quartered red onions, two bunches of watercress, curly parsley, and Arbequina olives (which “give a gnya to the salad”).

I boiled the artichokes in salted water for about 20 minutes, until they were tender. (In addition to softening them before grilling the boiling also breaks down the gas-producing inulin and fructosans that make up 50% of the root, something I learned from Harold McGee’s The Curious Cook, which devotes an entire chapter to “Taking the Wind out of the Sunroot.”)

While the chokes cooked, I tossed the onions on olive oil and balsamic vinegar, wrapped them in foil, and roasted them in a 375°F oven until they were soft, about an hour.

I cut the chokes lengthwise into 3/8 inch slices, then seared them on a grill pan for about three minutes per side. I trimmed the watercress above the thick stems, chopped a handful of parsley, and made a simple lemon-garlic vinaigrette. I tossed everything together with a handful of the olives and dressed the salad lightly.

I served the salad with the leftover pheasant pie:

The acidity and slight bitter finish of the salad was the perfect balance to the richness of the pie. The choke slices were sweet with a bit of smokiness from the grill; I’d consider serving them that way without the accompanying greens.

When I looked at the collection of starting ingredients, I had a hard time imagining how they would taste together, but I should learn to trust Fergus Henderson, who has a knack for these sweet/bitter combinations. The parsley, in his words, “acts as a great marrier of disparate parts in a salad, the dating agency of the salad world.”

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