Sunchokes and bacon….together at last

  • Recipe(s): Warm salad of crispy smoked bacon and Jerusalem artichokes (page 49) & Baked John Dory in the bag with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar (page 241)
  • Prep: Moderate and Easy
  • Taste: Very Good & OK

The other night (June 11, 2014) we completed two more recipes from the challenge. We really haven’t been too good at knocking off the fish recipes so far, so we decided to choose one of these. We also hadn’t made a warm salad yet, so we decided to try one of those too. Both of the dishes turned out quite nicely in the end but were not without their own challenges.

Both of the recipes required ingredients that we had never used before, John Dory and Jerusalem artichokes. Back in the day, when I worked at a garden centre, we actually sold Jerusalem artichoke bulbs, so I at least knew what they looked like but had not clue where to buy them. My partner looked in a few places but couldn’t find them, so when in doubt, head to Granville Island. Lo and behold I found them at the first vegetable stall, which was conveniently located next to the fish market, where I picked up some cod (they had no John Dory and this was a suitable substitute), which was just down from the butcher where I picked up the bacon. Good ol’ Granville Island. Such a great place.

The prep for the salad was moderate. As with most recipes, this is not because it is technically difficult, but because it is time-consuming, with lots going on. Having everything out and ready to go really helped with this process. The prep on the fish was super easy. Only a little chopping and slicing is required to make a nice bed for fish to lie on. The most technical part is sealing it all up in the tinfoil bag. I have done this process before on the bbq with other meats and vegetables but had never used an egg wash on the edges. That really created an airtight seal. It was amazing.

One thing that did strike us as odd was the amount of butter lettuce that was required for the recipe. Either we have way larger butter lettuce in Canada than the UK or we happened to purchase abnormally large ones. The recipe called for three but we only used one and it was plenty. If you use all three then you definitely need to add way more bacon, onion and artichokes. The amount of oil and vinegar that the recipe called for was the perfect amount, so we were glad to have reduced the amount of lettuce.

So, after all that prep how did everything turn out?

The salad was very good. Neither of us had eaten a Jerusalem artichoke before and were pleasantly surprised with both its taste and texture. It was a great addition to the salad. The recipe says that you can substitute new potatoes but I am glad we went with the artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunchokes because they come from the sunflower plant. It had a nice firm texture, which created a contrast with the soft salad, crispy radicchio and warm bacon. It could have perhaps used a bit more bacon but then again, what can’t use more bacon? I have always been a fan of red onion and balsamic vinegar and it did not disappoint in this salad. The acidity of the vinegar combined with the creamy texture and taste of the butter lettuce was great. Add to that the sweetness of the cooked red onion and bacon (again) and you have the makings of a really great dish. So yes, we rated it very good and it would place fairly high on the flavour to effort scale.

The fish, well it was fish. This dish had a tonne of potential. Basil, tomato, garlic, balsamic. That is a classic combination but for some reason this dish fell somewhat flat. When I pulled it out of the oven it was cooked perfectly. The cod was nice and flakey, the basil was soft, and the tomatoes were falling apart. It smelled absolutely amazing but didn’t exactly inspire the palate. The fish was bland, the basil too liquoricey and the tomatoes uninspiring. Perhaps John Dory has a different flavour profile to cod, which could make this dish much better. We both agreed that it would be nice served on top of fresh pasta (it had a lot of juice) and possibly some nice sharp cheese, like Pecorino, shaved on top. As it was it was ok but it has the potential to be much better. Even though it was an easy dish to prepare it would rank lower on the flavour to effort scale due to lack of flavour

This weekend we are going to be preparing homemade ice cream! I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

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