Monday, March 19, 2012

Our Stinky Friend, the Turnip

Also titled "Chapter 2 of Irish Food, updated to be edible" ....

I believe I may have mentioned this before, but I'm going to have to say it again.  Very rarely do I actually eat any of the veggies cooked alongside a roast (or in this case, corned beef).  I tend to cook my meats with some mirepoix for flavor, and then chuck it later because the veg have cooked to death and are a mushy pile of inedible crap.  It may seem wasteful, but the gravy is a-mazing and I don't really mind sacrificing 1/2 an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk, and a couple of garlic gloves to the kitchen gods all in the name of yummy food.    The only time I've been happy with the results is when I've cooked the meat most of the way first, drained all the liquid off, THEN added my veggies to a mostly dry pan to roast a bit while the meat finished cooking.  I usually end up burning myself and splashing hot fatty meat juices all over the place.

I don't like burning myself.

I also don't enjoy cleaning up greasy bits in my kitchen.

It's just so much easier to get a sheet pan dirty and cook it separately.  I don't end up with a blister on my thumb the size of my face, my kitchen says (relatively) clean, and I'm not quaking in fear for the safety of any dogs, cats, or toddlers that may be wandering around. 

Oooooh.  Turnips. (Not eeeuuuuuuw, turnips!)
Okay, that being said, it's on to the root vegetables we're going to be working with, several of which are going to cause a few scrunchy faces.  Yes, turnips are stinky.  They can't help it, God made them that way.  Rutabagas, being a cross between a turnip and cabbage, can be a little stinky also.  But this is kind of like how cheese is super stinky, but the most awesome food ever created by man. Turnips and rutabagas, especially when combined with garlic and carrots and onions and parsnips, are wonderful and delicious and beautiful and yummy.  And, even better, easy peasy to prep!

Easy enough that I was able to make dinner in spite of my two helpers.  Or course the Wonder Kitten is my little shadow and thinks it his God appointed duty to perform supervision on everything I do, from laundry to cooking to getting ready for work every morning.

Notice the well-chewed hair tie that he's hanging out with.  He's a little odd.  But at least he's pretty!

My second pain in the ass helper was the Most Spoiled Puppy Ever Created (because wherever my parents go, Buster Pup goes too).  His idea of being helpful was heckled by Wonder Kitten and jumping on the couch and drooling water all over my floors.  It took four tries to get a picture with even half of his face in it; he kept thinking I had a treat (or maybe the camera was a cookie) and sitting up.  

Notice his well-stocked toy basket.  He also has his own cookie jar filled with biscuits.  He felt a little displaced when we finally got a dog of our own.

All of the ingredients are easily found pretty much anywhere.  I went shopping at Albertson's Savemart and had no trouble, which means Winco or Raley's or any other store in the BLC would have what you need (because Savemart isn't known for their variety).

Way. Too. Much.

In terms of quantity, do not go by the picture.  Much of this is still wrapped up, raw, in my fridge to use later.  While it looked like a reasonable amount when I was washing and peeling, it grew as I was cutting.  I used a fraction of the pictured produce and had plenty for 6 people as a side-dish, plus leftovers.  

As ever, preheat your oven, this time to 400ºF.

You'll need:
  • 1 large parsnip, or 2 if they are small.  Mine weren't small.  They look like big white carrots, but taste a little like fennel.
  • 4 carrots.  No explanation necessary, you all know what a carrot is because you weren't raised by wolves.
  • 1/2 large rutabaga.  I bought a gigantic one.  If you find small ones, your probably bought a turnip accidentally.  Rutabagas look like giant turnips.
  • 1 large turnip or 2 small ones.  These look and small exactly like (smaller) rutabagas!
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Italian Parsley
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Herbes de Provence (I did warn you that these would get used again and again)
  • Salt and Pepper (Kosher or sea salt please.  Iodized salt tastes like poo.  Kosher salt is super cheap and usually in a big box on the bottom shelf).
Wash and peel everything.  Rutabagas and turnips are hard and nasty to cut through, so watch your fingers - if there isn't a flat-side to rest it on, cut a piece out of one side.   Cut your root veg into cute little sticks - fatter on the carrots and parsnips (because they cook faster), skinnier on the others.

Chop the parsley and thinly slice the garlic and onions.   Then season well with salt and pepper (and more pepper) and about 1 tsp of the herbes de provence.  Toss well to mix and spread into a (mostly) single layer on your sheet pan.

It would also be a good idea to use a little pan spray.  No one likes to scrub.

Break up the butter into small pieces and dot it all over the top of your veg.    Roast them uncovered for about an hour.  After about 30 minutes, give them a good stir (just make sure they get back into a single-ish layer when you're done mixing).

The garlic roasts and gets all mellow and happy.  The onions start to caramelize.  The rutabagas turn this pale creamy apricot color.  The turnips, while still turnips, mellow a little and their flavor helps to balance out the sweetness from the carrots and parsnips.  Everything just gets really really nice.  

The pale yellow chunks? Rutabagas!  No way to mistake them for a turnip now!

If you need to hold them for a bit before serving, transfer to an oven-proof dish, add about another 1/2 tablespoon of butter, just because it tastes good, and cover them well.  Then set them in a 250ºF oven while you finish up the rest of dinner.

Of course,  I served these on Irish night, with corned beef and braised cabbage, but tonight we're having them with roast beef ... and next week we'll have them with roasted chicken.  And the week after that we'll have them with barbecued pork chops.   If you don't have a Roomie like I do, these could be served in place of potatoes, OR you could scrub a handful of red potatoes and cut them into wedges and just add them to the mix.  Very versatile little dish!  And it's already vegetarian; vegan if you omit the butter. 

Recipe available, all handy and ready-to-print, with measurements, over at Tasty Kitchen (click here!  click here!)

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