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Sunchoke Chowder and Gluten-Free Beer Worth Drinking

(We present: Another week, another recipe for sinful succulent carbs. You can thank me later.)

As I write this I’m enjoying a weekend of of pretending to be a single lady. My fella is great, but there is just something about eating and drinking whatever you want and whenever you want. Sleeping in the middle of the bed. Staying up until 2 a.m. to drink wine and read in bed. It’s fun to spent three days not thinking for one second about anyone else’s schedule.

But the big thing for me when the fella leaves town is seafood and raw tomatoes. He isn’t a fan of either, and being a good girlfriend, I mostly keep my indulgence in them to times when he isn’t around. It gives me something to look forward to, and scallops taste that much better because I only eat them a couple times a year. Recently I added sunchokes to the list of things the fella just doesn’t understand (he’ll eat them but he has no idea why I spend hours scrubbing them clean and then going crazy over their amazing artichokey root vegetable flavor).

So I went all out and made sunchoke chowder and scallops to celebrate a quiet night spent alone. Making the evening even better was finding this Green’s gluten free Belgian style Amber ale. Gluten-free food can fake almost anything, from pizza, to fluffy bread and any imaginable dessert. But the wheatless beer for the most part just plain sucks. Sorgum and rice make for a weird, overly-sweet one-note brew that is drinkable if I’m in the mood and can remember to forget all the great real beer I’ve had.

Green’s Amber Ale, however, was like drinking the real thing. It is a blend of millet, buckwheat, rice, sorgum, hops and yeast that had a nice round palate of bitter and sweet. In other words, it was everything you look for in a Belgain beer. I was so happy with having a good beer I canceled my plans to go taste wine to stay home and finish drinking my beer. Yes you heard me right I turned down Syrah for this beer.  (That sound you just heard was probably Lindsay falling out of her chair after reading this — she knows my great love for big evil Australian reds.) (Editor’s note: *kerplunk!*)

I also have to mention just how serious this brewer is about being allergy friendly. Aside from being gluten free, the label also says: “Green’s ales DO NOT contain: wheat, barley, crustaceans, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, milk, lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulphur dioxide, or sulfites.” This is one hypoallergenic beer. We can all breathe easier knowing that someone has taken care of the problem of celery- and crustacean-contaminated beer. (I guess I don’t know what crazy stuff goes into beer. Is someone putting crustaceans into beer and no telling us? Shrimp and lobster beer is probably one I would want to skip anyway.) But all joking aside, I love that someone is making a serious beer for people with food allergies. I will be buying this regularly.

Getting back to the food, this chowder was a fun departure from the traditional clam chowder. It had a lot of similar flavors, but the scallops, sunchokes and fennel add a new depth. You may feel differently, but I was more than happy to spend all the time it took to clean the sunchokes in order to eat this big creamy soup.

The only thing I dislike about spring is that it means soup weather is almost over. On the other hand, it does mean tomatoes ripe enough to eat whole and raw as juice drips down your arm are right around the corner. (And that sound was my fella gagging at the thought of that image. Sorry honey.)

Sunchoke Chowder
From La Tartine Gourmande

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 10 coriander seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), peeled and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons ground cashews with enough hot water added to make a thick paste (or 2 tablespoons crème fraîche)
  • truffle oil, to garnish
  • scallops, to garnish

Before you start cooking, round up all your vegetables to begin peeling and dicing them. The sunchokes will be especially time consuming to prepare as they are knobby and crusted in dirt. It’s okay to swear at them and threaten to throw them across the room after about 20 minutes of going at them with a potato peeler and a knife. Just trust that the end result will be worth the effort.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the shallot and cook with the coriander seeds and rosemary for a few minutes without browning.

Add the vegetables and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes or until they start to get a bit soft. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and check soup for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Stir in your cashew paste or creme fraiche then puree with immersion blender or very carefully in small batches puree in blender.  Just remember if you’re doing the mixing in the blender that hot liquids when they are agitated tend to explode upwards so leave the lid off at an angle and hold on to it with a clean dish rag so no soup escapes on you.

Garnish with a little drizzle of truffle oil and serve with scallops. Scallops are easy; just salt and pepper them a bit then place them in a hot nonstick or grill pan over medium high heat. Cook for about 90 seconds then flip and cook on other side for about 60 seconds. I like mine cooked through and warm in the middle, so your cooking method may vary.

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