We continue to learn that when you peel vegetables has a dramatic impact on the amount of flavor available in the cooked vegetable. It began with our potato cookery. As we continue to work with different root vegetables we are experiencing the results of cooking more of them in their skins.
A dish we are fine tuning centers around Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. We cook them sous vide in their skins, bathed in an aromatic yogurt marinade. Originally I wanted to serve the unpeeled sunchokes. They had a vivid, earthy flavor and the texture of very firm grapes bursting out of their skins. Aki was unconvinced. When we first ate the cooked sunchokes in their skins she found the flavor of the skin overpowering and the texture a bit tough and coarse. Having tasted them my way, I set about peeling a few pieces so that we could try them Aki's way too. As I did this I became enamored by the process. The leathery skin was thicker than I imagined and significantly thicker than that of raw sunchokes. The pliable casing peeled off relatively easily, leaving us with a juicy, aromatic sunchoke with a slight crunch and a previously undiscovered hint of tang from the yogurt. The texture was magical and left me slightly stunned by the fact that we had not tried this before. By peeling the skin after cooking, the flavor of the sunchoke became concentrated during the cooking process.
In our current dish we roll the chilled vegetable in a powdery seasoning consisting of yogurt, mastic, muscavado sugar and salt. The light crumb hides the firm and juicy flesh of the sunchoke beneath. The dry coating prepares the tongue to receive the contrasting moisture of the vegetable it conceals. The intense flavor of our sunchokes has us wondering what other vegetables will also benefit from being cooked this way. In fact, the flavor of vegetables cooked in their skins is similar in intensity to meats and fish cooked on the bone. The key is figuring out how to control and refine the cooking process for the individual ingredients. Today was a good beginning.