Sunday, December 7, 2008

Turnip's Turn

I suppose I should start off with a little Thanksgiving recap even though it seems that everyone is so Christmas-crazy that they've forgotten that turkey day even happened. But I never gave it its due, and it is the biggest food holiday of the year, so...

I hardly ever take pictures of my food when I'm serving it to guests, and Thanksgiving is no exception. So no photos of the food we ate, although it was all tasty and blog-worthy. Here is the menu we prepared:
Turkey (my mom was in charge)
Whole-grain stuffing with roasted leeks and apples
Roasted turnip and shallot puree
Roasted buttercup squash
Curried chard with apples
Cabbage salad with toasted pecans
Herb-roasted potatoes
Wine-spiked cranberry sauce
Pumpkin-mascarpone pie (my sister made this one)
Poached quince and apple tart
Caramel cake (courtesy of the Daring Bakers)
Our dirty little secret was that this menu was only for five (5!) people. In fact, I also made a celery-root soup, but there was so much food on the table that nobody remembered to bring it in from the garage (which becomes our overflow fridge when the weather cooperates). So yes, there it is, a Thanksgiving menu in all its glory. The food was good, the company was better, and the leftovers were abundant and well-received.

But before we leave that all behind in favor of bourbon balls and potato latkes, I thought I'd at least share one recipe from Thanksgiving, even if it is the most dull-sounding one on the menu. Can you guess? Yep - it's the turnips. So unassuming, so unfortunately lumpy-looking, and so downright tasty.

I've never really had much to do with turnips in the past, but those huge Macomber turnips at Whole Foods looked intriguing, so I thought I'd lug them home with me. In the end it was just right - I roasted and ran them through the food processor, and they served as a sort of stand-in for the traditional mashed vegetable: potatoes.

We stopped doing mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving last year, when we realized that we just didn't need to serve a heavy, not all that interesting dish in the name of tradition. The thing about mashed potatoes is that they just don't taste good unless they are loaded with butter, cream, or something else decidedly un-potatoey.

So we started doing herb-roasted potatoes, which need only some herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and nobody has complained yet. Still though, I wanted to try something with my turnips, and they seemed perfect for a puree. The result was a smooth and flavorful dish that is far more interesting than regular old potatoes. It's also much lighter, and would make a wonderful addition to any number of meals.

I repeated the process again for tonight's dinner, this time using a roasted head of garlic instead of the shallots I used a few weeks ago, and served it with some deliciously moist roasted chicken breasts (Jonathan's handiwork, I might add!). The turnip and roasted garlic combination is complex and slightly sweet; the turnips have a sassy bite to them, similar to radish or mild horseradish, and the roasty, subtle sweetness of the garlic was a lovely complement. Unfortunately, it's not the most photogenic of dishes, but it's a great and creative way to serve a vegetable that so often is forgotten.

A note about turnips, my new favorite forgotten vegetable: They can take a while to roast, but their browned edges and creamy flesh add lots of depth to the flavor of the puree. In my freakishly fast oven, it takes about half an hour for them to become tender, but in my parents' oven, I had to roast them for a little more than an hour. Make sure the roasted turnip flesh is very tender, not crunchy at all. As for the garlic: I love roasting whole heads of garlic, and the flavor of the garlic changes dramatically once roasted. I used a little less than the whole head for this puree, saving a few cloves worth of soft garlic to spread on some bread. Delicious. Other than that, this recipe (if I can call it that) is a breeze. Use a food processor for the best and smoothest results.

Turnip and Roasted Garlic Puree

1 very large or a few smaller Macomber (white) turnips, diced to 1/2 inch cubes
1-2 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 head garlic
a few tablespoons water or stock


Roast turnips: Place diced turnip on a foil-line baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to coat, and roast at 400 degrees until tender and beginning to brown, 30min. - 1hr., depending on your oven. Meanwhile, roast garlic: slice the top off of one head of garlic. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, then wrap completely in foil and place in the oven along with the turnips until cloves are soft and mushy. To make puree, place roasted turnips in the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the head of garlic to extract the soft flesh, and add to the turnips. Puree until smooth, drizzling some stock or water into the whirling puree to achieve the proper consistency. Season to taste and serve, preferably underneath a perfectly roasted piece of chicken or turkey.

1 comment:

Christina said...

My mom uses her garage as an overflow refrigerator, as well. She just puts the food in giant cooler in bags and it's perfectly fine.

Not being one for mashed potatoes, I really like the sound of the turnip-roasted garlic puree. I like turnips because the consistency is lighter, and accented with the roasted garlic would make it amazing!