Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turnips?? Rutabagas?? Swedes??

Growing up in a large Irish-American family, turnips to me meant that big yellow, waxy bulb that you can't cut without a cleaver. They'd turn up at the holidays--Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas-- prepared by my Grandma Brown. Simply boiled, mashed, and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. None of us really seemed to like the turnips (and in those days the gathering was large-- with just my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins we were over 20 at the table(s)). But we all had a dollop of turnips on our plates, to make Grandma happy.
I now know that what we called turnips are really rutabagas-- called 'swedes' in the UK-- a winter root vegetable that is best boiled and mashed. Not so yummy raw. The turnips I get in my CSA share are white and purple, the density of potatoes (as opposed to rocks), and have a distinctive peppery taste. Young specimens can be enjoyed raw. You can treat them a bit like potatoes-- keeping in mind that they do bring their own distinctive flavor to however you are preparing them. I've become quite fond of the turnip -- I liked the recipe for Scalloped Turnips with Apples so much, I had seconds last night. It's a perfect fall dish, warm and creamy, marrying the root vegetable with local apples.
Scalloped Turnips with Apples
1 large or 2 medium white turnips
1 large apple
1 small onion
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the turnips and the apple. Cut them into thin slices. Peel the onion and slice thinly. 
Place half of the turnips in a single layer in the bottom of a gratin or baking dish. Sprinkle half the apples and half the onions over the turnips. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with 1 Tablespoon of butter and sprinkle one Tablespoon of flour over all. Repeat with remaining turnips, apple, onion, butter and flour. 
Pour enough milk over all to come halfway up the vegetables. Cover tightly (use aluminum foil if the baking dish does not have a tight lid) and bake 30 minutes.
Remove cover, return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes, until the turnips are tender and the milk has thickened slightly. Serve hot.

What To Do With TURNIPS

1. Eat them raw: Young fresh turnip is crisp and refreshing with a mild spicy flavor, much like radishes but milder. Julienne it and add it to salad or coleslaw, or as a crisp contrast in chicken salad 
2. Roast them: Either alone or with other root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes. Cut the vegetables into similar sizes and preheat the oven to 375. Toss with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper (for fancier seasonings there are recipes in the book). Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the size of the vegetables, until tender.
3. Braise them: Cut them into cubes and sauté with onions in butter or oil until just changing color. Cover with chicken or vegetable stock and maybe a little white wine and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. You can then remove the turnips and turn the heat on high to boil the sauce to reduce it. Serve the turnips with the sauce.
4. Boil them: for large turnips, peel and dice and place in a pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes or longer, until tender. Drain. Serve cubed, dressed with butter and salt and pepper, or mash with butter.
5. Pressure cook them: Peel and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Cover with 1 cup of water and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Microwave them: Peel and cut into wedges. For each medium turnip add 1/2 tablespoon of water and cook, covered, on high, for 3 minutes.
7. Fry them: Cut into 1/2” strips, and fry in 1-inch of water until crisp, turning often. Serve with ketchup, or mayonnaise mixed with horseradish.

HOW TO STORE TURNIPS:  Do not wash. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 4 months.


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