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Farmer Lee Jones—Rach's "favorite veg head in a bib and a bow tie"—and his team at The Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio, grow the most beautiful Jerusalem artichokes, which are part of the sunflower family and also called sunchokes. The white flesh is nutty, sweet and crunchy—like chestnuts—when raw. Grated or thinly sliced, they add nice texture to salads.
And much like potatoes, they can be cooked many different ways, including baked. When you bake them in their skins, they become more like potatoes, with a mild taste of artichoke hearts. Of course, they're great in soups, too, including this pureed soup by Rach. Here, they are boiled, smashed and fried, resulting in an oh-so-good side dish with lots of crispy bits and a soft, creamy interior. The inspiration for the recipe came from chef Gavin Kaysen, who does the same thing with small potatoes.
Pro Tips from Lee: You can store Jerusalem artichokes in the fridge in a plastic bag for 7 to 14 days, but they do not freeze well. Before using, rinse them and then trim any dark spots.
In a medium saucepan, cover sunchokes with 1 inch cold water. Season generously with kosher salt. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until a paring knife inserted into sunchoke meets little resistance, about 10 minutes.
Drain the sunchokes in a fine-mesh strainer or colander. When cool enough to handle, place sunchokes on a cutting board. Working with 1 sunchoke at a time, use the bottom of a plate to press firmly on each one until it is flattened, but still intact.
In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 320°F. Add the sunchokes in a single layer and cook without moving them until well browned, about 3 minutes. Flip sunchokes and continue to cook, about 3 minutes longer. Add half the thyme and remove from heat.
Transfer sunchokes to a serving plate. Garnish with the remaining thyme, sprinkle with flaky salt and serve immediately.