Last year E and I spent a week frolicking in the Pacific US Northwest/Canadian Southwest after IFBC wrapped up. On our last day and a half before returning to Puerto Rico, we hung out around Redmond, a Seattle suburb famous for its proximity to the Woodinville wine tasting rooms, the Microsoft campus, and The Herbfarm. After spending about an hour in the Redmond farmers’ market that Saturday, I decided the next time I visited that area I would rent an apartment with a good kitchen. We were wowed by the wonderful produce we saw at the market, stand after stand. I took an especially good look at the Jerusalem artichokes, aka sunchokes, knowing that I’d likely wouldn’t be seeing them again in the (near) future.
I had to make an educated guess for an alternative vegetable to substitute for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic. Chayote is a vegetable native to Mexico that grows all over the Caribbean and parts of Asia. It is also known in the American South as mirliton. Here’s how I rationalized my choice to make roasted chayote with garlic:
(It was fun finding out that the sunchokes have some redeeming qualities like the ability to turn into booze. I hope none of the Doristas and their willing tasters suffered from the more documented properties of this root vegetable.)
The chayotes found in Puerto Rico are not as green as the ones in the picture. These are traditionally cooked into stews or stuffed with picadillo, not unlike the sweet potatoes I made recently. To prepare the chayotes for roasting, I sliced them lengthwise, peeled the skin off and sliced them into wedges. After a generous dousing of eye-balled olive oil and salt, I roasted them for half an hour. After that first half hour, I tossed in the thyme and garlic. The reference I consulted suggested roasting the chayote spears for about an hour, and I didn’t want the delicate garlic slices to burn completely. The chayote wedges were properly roasted by the 45-50 minute mark and most of the garlic was golden and crisp.
Like most vegetables, the chayote spears acquired a sweet, slightly smoky flavor from roasting. The delicate squash flesh, paired with the crisp and good-bitter garlic chips and thyme made a satisfying bite. I’d make these again in a heartbeat, sprinkling Cajun seasoning instead of plain salt and pepper. It would be a tasty nod to New Orleans, where mirlitons are extremely popular. If you have ten minutes to spare, I encourage you to read this account from nola.com on how the “Mirliton Man” rescued the Louisiana chayote post Hurricane Katrina by encouraging people to plant them in their backyards to generate seeds. It’s an oldie but goodie, and includes a few recipes.
French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group where we, the fearless Doristas, cook our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. For more tales of sunchokes, potatoes, parsnips, jicamas and yes, chayote roasted with garlic, click here.