I’m taking over the holiday this year, which is my way of showing thanks, love and appreciation to my family for all they do for Virna and me. But when the topic of stuffing came up, lets just say my mother was less than thrilled to know that I was deviating from our traditional style.
To put things in perspective, I’ve got to rewind a little. I lived away from home for close to 14 years. That’s 14 years of not doing a family Thanksgiving; 14 years of going rogue, bucking from tradition. This will be my third year home with my family doing Thanksgiving, and since I was always busy with Virna the other years, my mother has always done all the cooking. I wanted her to relax this year and not worry about a thing. I want to blow her away by putting my spin on the classics and giving our family’s Thanksgiving traditions my own personal touch. I’m a firm believer of always trying something new while still paying homage to the classics.
That being said, I’m also a sucker for nostalgia and using food as a conduit for reliving warm memories with those you love. So I find it’s only right to small-batch some of her favorite stuffing to have the best of both worlds.
All of this storytelling now leads me to My Latest Mistress: the legendary sunchoke. Not only am I attracted to this nutritious tuber for its spectacular flavor and health benefits, but also because it has a rich lore. The sunchoke has garnered a few bizarre nicknames over time, like “Jerusalem’s artichoke”,“earth apple” and “Canadian truffle” (it’s not any of those things). It is actually the root vegetable of a specific species of sunflower.
Maybe the most interesting part of the plant is its history. It seems to have an awkward love affair with North America. It is indigenous to our country and originally cultivated by Native Americans. Once European explorers discovered all of its amazing properties—it’s really easy to grow—they sent the plants back across the pond. Shortly after, it disappeared from this continent, not to be seen again here for hundreds of years.
It might be a stretch to directly compare my own story to that of the sunchoke, but I do feel like it could relate! I too know what it feels like to move away and return home as a new person, and now to be planted in multiple places at the same time. And, of course, I too want nothing more than to be roasted in a warm stuffing with sausage, mushrooms and sage.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Glaze 12” baking dish with 1 tbsp butter. Toss sunchokes with 2 tbsp olive oil and salt/pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft. Reduce oven to 350ºF.
In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, mushrooms and sage. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 5 minutes and add sausage, and then cook for 5 minutes more. Add in wine and cook until it has reduced slightly, then stir in cream. Set aside to cool.
Add sausage mixture, sunchokes and cornbread to a bowl. Toss with chicken stock and eggs and wait 5 minutes until cornbread has absorbed the liquid.
Place in prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes until you have some toasty and crispy edges. Serve warm.