Thursday, May 5, 2011

Turning Tricks w/Turnips

The humble turnip is a frequent visitor in our farmbox, especially during Spring and Fall. Not having ever eaten one (at least not knowingly) in my youth, I wasn't quite sure what it'd be like when I first had them a couple of years ago, but suffice it to say that IMHO it's basically a blander, slightly spicy potato. I've tried braising them (mediocre) and throwing them into Shepherd's Pie (makes them indistinguishable from the rest of the casserole), but I've now got two recipes at my disposal that allow me to cook them up in a halfway-appetizing manner. When we received 4 turnips and some beets in the box this past week, my first inclination was to pull out Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cookbook and throw together his Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey, Balsamic Vinegar, and Goat Cheese (the title pretty much tells you everything you need to know) to go as a side dish with some black bean & ham soup . There isn't a lot to this recipe and you can make substitutions as necessary (for example, I replaced the carrots and parsnips with an equal weight of turnips/beets since that's what I had in the larder, plus Large Corporate Grocery was out of shallots, so I had to make do with pearl onions).

1/2 lb. medium carrots, peeled and left whole
1/2 lb. medium beets, peeled and quartered
1/2 lb. medium turnips, peeled and halved
1/2 lb. medium parsnips, peeled and left whole
3 shallots, unpeeled, cut in half through the stem
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
4 oz. fresh chilled goat cheese crumbles
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt and pepper in a big bowl. Dump them out onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 25 minutes. Whisk together the honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Take the vegetables out of the oven, pour the honey-vinegar mixture over, and toss. Return the vegetables to the oven and cook until fork-tender and caramelized, about 20 more minutes. Top with goat cheese and serve.

With 2 turnips to spare, I started poking around my Epicurious iPhone app looking for something else to do with them and I found Creamy Turnip Puree with Walnuts, Anchovies, and Parsley, courtesy of Bon Appetit. My hope was that this would be a nice, rich alternative to my run-of-the-mill mashed potatoes. The recipe calls for 6 pounds of turnips, so I scaled it down to 1/3 of the main ingredients and 1/2 for the walnut-anchovy-parsley topping (3 things we like very much around here and don't mind having extra). The pureed turnips, despite the robust addition of heavy cream and butter (bringing to mind the infamous "death potatoes" served by master French chef Joel Robuchon, where the mass of cream/butter actually outweighs the mass of potatoes in the mix), were still a little blase, but certainly edible (at least if you're an adult in the Hackknife household). As for the topping, I have to say that this has promise for potential applications in all kinds of dishes down the road. I think we'll be seeing it again sometime, maybe over pasta or perhaps on vanilla ice cream.....

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