A One-Bite Appetizer to Class Up Your Parties

December 29, 2015

A few years ago, I ate a sunchoke soup that was garnished with mussels, and I’ve been enamored with that flavor combination ever since: The nutty sweetness of the sunchokes works as a perfect foil for the briny mussels, like an unlikely surf and turf. I decided to take this concept and turn it into a single-bite crostini.

When the fall weather hardens into full blown winter, I get excited by the availability of sunchokes at the farmers market; although they’re not much to look at, they have tremendous flavor that's similar to an artichoke heart. (But unlike artichokes, sunchokes are actually quite easy to clean and eat.)

Photo by James Ransom

For my hors d’oeuvre, I braised the sunchokes in chicken stock to enhance their natural earthiness. Braising them also changes their texture, turning their raw crunchy flesh into something soft and creamy, almost like a cooked potato. Then the sunchokes get puréed, making them into a silky and spreadable condiment for the crostini. Everything gets topped with mussels “en escabeche.”

Escabeche, in its most general sense, refers to an acidic marinade, often associated with Spanish seafood that has been cooked and then marinated overnight. To create this escabeche, I use the flavorful broth leftover from steaming open the mussels and amplify it with smoked paprika and sherry vinegar.

This is a perfect recipe for entertaining: The sunchoke purée and mussels escabeche can both be made long before guests arrive. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to serve a small bite to a large crowd, this crostini will make a big impression without causing you too much trouble in the kitchen. Your guests will be impressed with the flavors and textures (briny! earthy! creamy! crunchy!)—and even better, they'll never suspect how simple it truly was to assemble and serve.