Creamy Sunchoke Soup with Tasso Ham and Chèvre Croquettes
I am not Thomas Keller, the American chef, restauranteur and cookbook writer, you know just in case you were wondering. I took this recipe, one of his, and altered it almost to the point of disaster however, I pulled it off and the result was amazing! It was tricky there for a while until I had to really get down and start thinking how on EARTH I was going to dig myself out of the mess I had created. Luckily with a few tweaks I made it work and did a happy dance in the middle of my kitchen when I realized how awesome MY version of this Creamy Sunchoke Soup with Tasso Ham and Chèvre Croquettes turned out to be.
I’ve talked in the past about how Whole Foods is a place where I find myself really inspired. Last week I went for some ingredients for another post and walking through the produce section I ran across sunchokes. I had never eaten a sunchoke and really didn’t have a clue how to cook them but I knew I wanted to try.
I came home and started looking online. First about what a sunchoke actually is. Turns out it’s also called a Jerusalem Artichoke. It’s a tuber or a vegetable grown underground and is like a semi-sweet, nutty potato. And then about how to cook one. I found a lot of information about roasting them and a couple soup recipes but then I ran across this recipe by Thomas Keller for Sunchoke Soup with Virginia Ham Croquettes and I knew that was it although I was a little apprehensive.
You’ll probably have seen the many soups I’ve done recently? If not check them out here. My favorites? The Sweet Potato and Leek or maybe Roasted Corn and Tomato but this one just took first place I think!
I knew I wanted to keep the soup close to the original. I only bought a pound of sunchokes so I altered the quantities a bit but didn’t change any ingredients.
The ham croquettes were where I would show my creativity. Thomas’ recipe called for 4 ounces of Virginia ham. I had Tasso which is a spicy ham and I wanted to use that but when I weighed the ham out and realized just how small 4 ounces were I was confused. I read through the recipe again and it said it made approximately 64 croquettes! Now, he’s the genius in the kitchen, not me but I thought it had to be a typographical error so I decided I’d use about a half a pound of ham. The croquettes can be frozen prior to frying so I thought I could make it work.
When I really started getting into the recipe I saw the length of time it required and started to question whether this was the best way to make the croquettes. I mean I could make a simple ham ball that didn’t require braising ham for 8 hours and then letting it sit over night in the braising juices but I know how talented he is and thought I’d go the distance with this recipe and see just how good it was. But one thing to note, if you don’t have the extra time this calls for you could easily blend cooked ham with a nice cheese of your choice and fry them up so don’t let this discourage you.
I took my half pound of ham along with the other ingredients and braised them in the oven at low heat for 8 hours just like the recipe calls for. My kitchen smelled divine so I was pleased I decided to try and follow directions but when going on to the next steps I knew I had a problem. It calls for reserving half a cup of the braising liquid to make a pâte à choux mixture for the croquettes. I had maybe a tablespoon of liquid left. There are two reasons that may have contributed to this problem. (1)…the lid to my cast iron pan I was using may have not been snug enough to keep the liquid from evaporating? And (B)…maybe the larger amount of ham I used soaked up more of the liquid? I’m leaning towards (1) but we will never know.
I decided I would just use what little liquid I had and then compensate with homemade chicken stock since I just made a fresh pot. Problem solved! I began making the pâte à choux mixture (a light pastry dough used to make beignets, profiteroles, etc). This is how it should look so don’t be alarmed. You’re going to need it thick so you can roll out the croquettes or so I thought!
I took the ham and put it in the food processor just like he said and processed until it was almost powdery in texture. Success. It really did seem a little like powder even though it didn’t look like it.
I was happy. I added the pâte à choux and blended. I then decided I wanted it to have cheese. Ham loves cheese so this was a must for me so I processed 4 ounces of chèvre into the ham mixture. I didn’t have all the herbs it called for but I did have fresh dill so I added that and had a taste. Whoa. So good. I’m on the right track at this point and I’m so glad I went the extra mile with his recipe. None of it was difficult at all, just a few extra steps.
Then I touched it. It should have occurred to me earlier but it didn’t. This consistency was NEVER going to roll into balls. Nope. Not a chance. Way too sticky. Now what? I thought, maybe I could pipe it into hot oil in ribbons and fry it that way? A little different but might be an option. Nope. It just fell apart. Even though it’s thick, it didn’t keep any of it’s structure when it started heating up. I also tried to pipe a small amount onto a baking dish and bake it. I doubted this as a viable option but stranger things have happened. Didn’t work. At this point I was getting pretty discouraged and thought I may have to put the soup up and start over with the ham following his recipe exactly but I wanted to try one more thing. I piped out a few balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet and popped them in the freezer to firm up a bit.
Once really firm, I rolled the croquettes in egg and then panko twice and fried a couple. YAY!!! (insert happy dance)
But you know what’s weird? I used more ham (a lot more) and added 4 ounces of goat cheese to my mixture and only got about 25 croquettes. How in the world did he get 64 using 4 ounces of ham? That one’s a mystery. I fried several and left about 15 in the freezer (skipping the breading steps) for another use. For his original recipe go here and mine follows below.
A Few Things…
- 1 pound of sunchokes yielded about 2 entree servings or 4 appetizer servings of soup.
- The soup can be made 24 hours or more ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator and reheated.
- I used 3 croquettes per bowl but only cooked 7 out of the batch and froze the rest.
- The croquettes can be made ahead of time as well and frozen without breading. When ready to use them just bread and fry only the number you need.
- The original recipe calls for sweating the garlic and shallots only, meaning just to let them wilt and not get any color change. This is probably to retain the sharp flavor, however, I allowed mine to brown and loved the way they turned out.
- Although the skin is edible, you’ll want to peel the sunchokes before cooking to keep your soup from having color variations so choose the largest you can to make the peeling process easier.
- I used the garnish he suggested, a sprig a chevril for each bowl and loved it but you could use dill or whatever herb you use in the croquettes.
- 1/2 pound cooked Tasso ham
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 small carrot cut into fourths
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 stick butter
- homemade chicken stock to add to braising liquid to make 1/2 cup if braising liquid doesn't produce enough
- 2/3 cup less 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 pound sunchokes, scrubbed
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
- 2 shallots, sliced thin
- 2-2 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1-1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- One day before serving, preheat oven to 300. Add the ham, shallot, garlic and bay leaf along with 1 quart of water to a cast iron casserole dish with lid.
- On the stove-top over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, cover with foil and then place lid on top.
- Place in the oven and braise for about 8 hours. Ham should be falling apart.
- Allow to cool in the braising liquid overnight.
- The next day, bring 1/2 cup of braising liquid (or however much braising liquid you have and chicken stock to make 1/2 cup) and butter to a boil in a small sauce pan.
- Add the flour all at once and quickly stir to incorporate. Mixture will immediately become very thick.
- Remove from heat and whisk in eggs, one at a time, blending until smooth.
- Keep warm.
- Place the ham in a food processor and process until almost powdery.
- Add about the same amount of the flour mixture as you have ham along with chèvre (goat cheese) and chipotle and process until creamy.
- Add dill and blend to incorporate.
- Add mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large, plain tip and pipe rounds onto a parchemnt lined baking sheet.
- Place sheet in freezer to firm up, approximately 20-30 minutes.
- If not preparing all the croquettes, place extras in a zip lock in the freezer for future use.
- Taking 2-3 croquettes per serving, thoroughly cover each ball in beaten egg and then dredge through panko and repeat. You should end with panko.
- Fry croquettes in hot oil until browned on all sides, approximately 1 minute.
- Drain on a paper towel.
- Serve immediately.
- Thinly slice scrubbed sunchokes and store in ice water. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
- Add the shallots and garlic and sauté just until a little color starts to show.
- Remove sunchokes from ice water and add to sauce pan.
- Cover with chicken stock and simmer until tender.
- Add cream and bring back to a simmer.
- Using an immersion blender or working in small batches in a stand blender, process until smooth.
- Taste and add salt and cracked white pepper to taste.
- Add 2-3 croquettes per serving to the soup and garnish with a sprig of chervil.
I know this seeds like an awful lot of work but it really isn’t. The steps are all very easy and some adjustments could be made to lessen the time. In my humble opinion? It’s totally worth it. The soup is a star all on it’s own and there’s a reason Thomas Keller is so successful.
Have you ever eaten a Jerusalem Artichoke? How’d you like it?