Friday, February 3, 2012

More than Tolerable Turnips


"May the odds be ever in your favor."
-Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)

This past week I've been much more interested in hunger than I have been in food. I haven't really been in the kitchen since Sunday night. In fact, I've been spending most of my days in the dungeons of Doe Library, rapidly producing pages and feeling like, for this second chapter at least, I'm moving into the home stretch. And every other minute in between, I've been devouring every single page of the Hunger Games series. Devouring and loving every minute of the action, the political intrigue and the requisite drama between the star-crossed lovers.



Fortunately, however, last week was a productive food week. I had long been planning on making a very simple, but appealing rutabaga recipe a friend had sent me a few years back. But when I went to the vegetable grocer a few blocks from my apartment, I ran into a little problem: the beets, turnips, parsnips and rutabagas were all in the same basket....and, embarrassing as this is to admit, I couldn't tell the turnips and rutabagas apart. Oh, root vegetables! I decided to cross my fingers and go with the smaller, more purplish vegetables (clearly, my aesthetic preferences played a role here) and google the matter when I got home. Yes, I could have just asked, but that would be too simple, wouldn't it? And who doesn't like a little culinary mystery?


When I got home, Google, the wonderful and enlightening tool that it is, immediately told me that what was for dinner was not, in fact, rutabagas, but turnips (obviously, the title of this post took all the suspense away). Even better, the very same problem that I encountered--rutabaga or turnip?--was a common one (if you want, you can take the which vegetable is this test for yourself). While I initially had no clue what I should do with them (soup? salad? roasting?), the matter, through Chowhound, soon resolved itself. One of the comments about a Turnip Puff immediately grabbed my attention. It reminded me of a cross between my beloved mashed potatoes (a childhood favorite) and sweet potato casserole...I didn't think a topping of breadcrumbs (in my case, always panko, which I prefer for some reason) would suffice, so I added some pecans to the mix. Plus, since turnips, as I read, can be bitter, I felt a little more brown sugar in the topping couldn't hurt either. What emerged from the oven was a recipe that I could easily see becoming a winter staple. I enjoyed the contrast between the sweet and crunchy topping and the slightly watery, barely there flavor of the turnip. Much like lima beans, turnips are one of those foods that, as a child, you dread hearing your parents mention at the dinner table. It was high time we became friends; in fact, I'm pretty certain that, thanks to this recipe, it's going to be a long and beautiful friendship....Even if my new friend is not all that photogenic.






Turnip Puff

Adapted from Wontonwoman via Chowhound

Yields enough to be a satisfying side dish for two days

3 cups turnips, mashed
2 tbsps butter
2 eggs, well beaten
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

For the topping:
1/4 cup panko
1 Tbsp. crushed/roughly chopped pecans
1 sliver butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

-Peel and cut turnips into small cubes (about 1")
-Place into boiling water and, once the turnips have softened and can be pierced with a knife (about 20 minutes), drain them.
-Preheat the oven to 375.
-Prepare the topping, melting the butter and mixing it with the nuts, brown sugar and panko. 
-Combine turnips and butter.
-Add the eggs, and beat thoroughly (I used an immersion blender).
-Add flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix until well blended.
-Turn into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle the topping over the casserole.
-Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the puff is lightly browned.
-Remove from the oven and prepare never to think of turnips in the same way again.

4 comments:

  1. haha -- and as I've only recently learned the rutabaga is what we call a swede in England!

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  2. It's like a whole new world--in terms of both cooking them and their nomenclature. :) Did you get some in your seasonal box of groceries?

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    Replies
    1. well, exactly - who knows...? a spherical root vegetable of some kind... I thought I knew a swede when I saw one (we had plenty at home -- boiled & mashed, with butter & pepper. sometimes,colourfully, but much less pleasantly, with mashed carrot too). I thought my unidentifiable root vegetable was a celeriac, but then others weighed in with rutabaga...i mean, that which we call a rutabaga by any other name might not actually be a swede....???

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    2. I think this calls for a taste test. I finally got my hands on some real rutabagas (carefully labeled as such at Whole Foods, so there can be no mistake!) and made them last night (I have found a new vegetable love). Based on the taste alone, I will never confuse them with turnips again. But, as to celeriac, I really can't say. It is, however, what I would call the _homeliest_ of the root vegetables.

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