by Lynley Fleak
Texture Swapping: Less cooking and more purees is the advice for this fall season. Vegetables from your farmer’s market this time of year don’t need a lot of heat in the kitchen if you want to retain their crisp flesh. But where fruit is concerned, the crunch is cooked out for a more concentrated flavor and a pureed consistency.
Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes/Girasole (Italian)/Topomambur (German)
Call them what you like, their starch content converts into sugar the longer they are stored or exposed to heat, yielding a signature sweetness. But for an earthy, nutty (think sunflower—the plant which they offshoot from underground) and water-chestnut-like crunch, little preparation is needed. Chef John Fraser in New York simply blanches sunchokes to contrast the texture of tender roasted meat, like buffalo.
Recipe: Roasted Buffalo with Ginger Béarnaise, Grilled Romaine, and Sunchokes
Chef John Fraser of Dovetail – New York, NY
Following this less-is-more principle to sunchokes, Chef Marc-Andre Jette in Montreal quickly sautés them with salsify and Brussels sprout leaves for a display of autumn’s abundance—all on one plate.
Recipe: Roasted Quebec Lamb Saddle with Carrot Puree, Blue Leg Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, Salsify, and Sunchokes Chef Marc-André Jetté of Restaurant Laloux – Montreal, Canada
Celery Root/Celeriac/Knob Celery
Its dense, firm texture turns soft the longer it’s cooked, and is widely used as a creamy puree or to build flavor in stocks and soups. But on its own, briefly cooked, celery root can impart both celery and parsley notes while still maintaining its structure. New York Chef Pablo Romero swaps out Arborio rice for this knobby root vegetable to create a diced celery root “risotto” made rich with hen of the woods mushrooms and black truffle pate.
Recipe: Striped Bass with Celery Risotto and Pine Nut Broth
Chef Pablo Romero formerly of Smith’s – New York, NY
Unlike other autumn vegetables, the pumpkin’s tough, somewhat grainy texture and bland taste benefit from a slow-cooking transformation into a puree. Pastry Chef Tara Hullander uses pumpkin puree to create a creamy custard. Utilizing the whole gourd, she tops the custard with crunchy, sugar-toasted pumpkin seeds. To counterbalance the sweetness she plates it alongside a tart, nutty, cranberry bar.
Recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Brulee with Toasted Pepitas and Cranberry Walnut Bar
Pastry Chef Tara Hullander formerly of Table 8 – Miami Beach, FL
With so many apple varieties to choose from, chefs can easily create sweet or savory dishes for their autumn menus. Las Vegas Chef Linda Rodriguez takes the savory route by preparing a puree from Fuji apples roasted with shallots, bay leaves, and thyme. Rodriguez adds no sugar to her puree, relying solely on the Fuji’s natural sweetness (a sugar content of 9 to11 percent by weight). Meanwhile, Pastry Chef Todd Feitl in Illinois embraces the apple’s saccharine by making a Honeycrisp puree into a sweet-tart frozen soufflé.
Recipe: Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Fuji Apple Puree
Chef Linda Rodriguez of Hachi – Las Vegas, NV
Recipe: Frozen Honeycrisp Apple Soufflé
Pastry Chef Todd Feitl of Vie – Western Springs, IL