One thing that people who like to cook seldom admit is, “I’ve never cooked that before!”, or its cousin, “I simply don’t know what to do with that!” For me, two vegetables in particular fall into both these categories: turnips and cauliflower. For turnips, it's the former; as for cauliflower in particular, it’s the later. I freely admit that I have no idea what the hell to do with cauliflower. Does anyone really eat the cauliflower on those ubiquitous veggie party platers with the ranch dressing dip in the middle. (I always feel a little sorry for all that uneaten cauliflower on those trays, but it looks like brain and tastes like styrofoam.)
This past weekend, I decided to change all this. Recently, on a clear, bright Saturday morning, I headed out to Pepper Place Saturday Market to buy turnips and cauliflower and figure out some way to cook them.
|©2103 Chris Terrell|
Turnips have been cultivated and eaten in Northern Europe for centuries, particularly in England and France. It is a root vegetable that is typically roasted or used in soups. Turnips need to be peeled before cooking and, according to Julia Child, par-boiled before cooking to reduce their bitterness, especially if they are “winter” turnips. The turnips I bought were white and didn’t resemble the purplish ones I had passed by in my local Piggly Wiggly. Consequently, I asked the earnest young hipster at the stall what kind of turnip this was and he said “Hackerrai.” “What?,” I replied. (Thinking this was some kind of obscure Game of Thrones reference to which I was not privy.) According to Mr. Hipster, hackerrais are mild and sweet and can be braised, roasted, boiled, sautéed, glazed, fried, or even eaten raw. (I’ll pass on eating them raw—carrots are about the only raw veggie I like.) My limited Internet research also turned up that hackerrai turnips were developed in Japan in the 1950s (who knew?!), even though they are smaller than regular turnips—not at all Godzilla-sized.
|©2013 Chris Terrell|
The finished product!
I must say, the turnips weren't bad. The turnips had the consistency of potatoes with the sweetness of carrots, but with just a touch of tartness that you would get with Brussels sprouts. Will I cook them again? Probably. As is the case with most vegetables, simple works best. Braised turnips would make a great addition to a nice roast on a cold winter’s eve. Here’s the recipe:
1½ pounds white turnips, scrubbed and diced
1½ cups beef stock
3 tablespoons butter
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
chopped parsley to taste
Put the turnips in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Drain the turnips and set aside. Meanwhile, return the pot to the stove and turn the heat on to high. Add the stock, butter, salt, and pepper. Stir until the butter is melted, then add the turnips. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the turnips are tender—about 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the turnips to a serving dish. Then turn the heat back up to high and boil the cooking liquid until it reduces to a thin, syrupy glaze. Pour it over the turnips and serve piping hot.