Salsify, not the most attractive thing I've ever seen but considering how long it's actually taken to get it, I'm not going to concern myself too much about the superficial. Here in Australia finding it commercially is an almost impossible task and they do tend to sell as soon as word gets round that they are available. Due to its rarity it is also a pricey ingredient.
One of closest relatives of Salsify is used to produce rubber and salsify itself has a sticky, latex-like sap that is released when peeled. This sap can also stain your hands so it's best to tackle this task using gloves. It's also necessary that once peeled you keep it in acidulated water to stop it from discolouring.
While I've read that some think it tastes a bit like oyster, which explains one of its other names Oyster plant, I think it's more akin to Jerusalem artichoke in flavour.
When it comes to cooking with salsify I'm at a bit of a disadvantage as I only have this one root. Recipes for fritters and gratin did interest me but I really don't have enough salsify to attempt them. So I decided to make the dish a treat for one.
Mushrooms are a good companion to salsify so I've paired it with lovely Shimeji and if you wanted to make this a bit more indulgent as salsify loves truffle, you could easily add it to this dish.
1 salsify root
handful shimeji mushrooms
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
thick slices of sour dough, grilled (or toasted)
Prepare the salsify:
You can apparently boil the root and once cooked through, you can peel the skin off. As I've got one of these vegetable peeling sponges I've used that to gently remove the skin and dirt. On harder to remove places I've used a regular vegetable peeler. Once peeled I've rubbed it with a cut lemon, sliced it into four equal pieces and placed it in acidulated water.
Boil the salsify in this acidulated water until tender - the time taken will depend on the thickness of the root. Let them sit in the water until ready to use.
Make the toast:
Slice your bread thickly, roughly dot the surface with a little butter and place on a hot grill. When browned, add a little more butter to uncooked side and flip to brown. Once cooked, place on a wire rack until ready to assemble.
Make the topping:
Remove the salsify from the water and cut in on the diagonal to form even slices. Place a good knob of butter in a skillet over a medium heat and when the butter has melted and is starting to sizzle, tip in the sliced salsify. Turn the heat down and sauté gently until golden. Remove the salsify from the pan, increase the heat slightly and add in the sage leaves, followed by the shimeji. Stir these frequently so that they colour but don't lose their moisture. Add back the salsify, season with sea salt and white ground pepper and then tumble this over the toasted bread.
This is best served as soon as you make it - you could also add a poached egg if you wanted something a little more substantial.