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Jenise

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November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:01 pm

In the world of vegetables, there may be none more misundertood--and feared--than the parsnip. Water-logged purees made by our mothers have convinced us that this vegetable is deadly dull or worse. That's certainly what I thought until adulthood when an adventurous friend served some deep-fried and dusted with parmesan cheese. Most who have not had similar good fortune still believe this vegetable to be useful for but pig slop (parsnips are part of the feed for the porkers destined for Parma ham), and that's why it's our Ingredient of the Month for November.

In 1730, Tournefort noted in The Compleat Herbal that "they are commonly boiled and eaten with butter in the time of Lent; for that they are the seetest, by reason the jhuice has been concocted during the winter, and are desired at that season especially both for their agreeable taste and their wholesomeness. For they are not so good in any respect till they have been first nipt with cold." This is perfectly true: the frost causes the starches to convert to sugars, and the sugars are considerable enough that the parsnip was used as a common-man's sweetener where honey was both rare and expensive. Although available year round nowadays, because of the need for cold they are a true fall and winter crop.

The name parsnip apparently implies an observation that the parsnip had character similar to a turnip, which is greatly disputable. Instead 'parrot' would have been a better name because of so many shared characteristics with carrots. In fact, Pliny used the single word "pastinaca" in the 1st century for both, and per Wikipedia "Caesar was said to have imported parsnips from Germany where they flourished along the Rhine". Early settlers brought them to America.

Parsnips have a sweet character that, when baked, fried or roasted turns wonderfully nutty. Less so when cooked in water, IMO. As with nearly all vegetables, the fresher and younger the better: they are buttery soft in youth, fibrous and stringy as seniors. Color's a good indicator--generally the lighter in color, the better, though color and shape (terms like bulbs, wedges and bayonets apply) do vary by specie, of which there are a number though, like potatoes, relatively few are grown commercially.

And now a shameful confession: having been converted by the deep fried method, I did absolutely nothing with parnsips myself until I came across a Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit or Gourmet, most likely, which included a recipe for oven roasting batonnets of parsnip and carrot tossed with EVOO, black pepper and fresh thyme. That dish has been on my Thanksgiving table ever since, and I sometimes combine them with other oven roasted vegetables at other times of the year, but I have never cooked parsnips any other way. Not one. [hanging head, shuffling feet]

One of the ways I plan to remedy that is by preparing parsnip pancakes with smoked fish and caper sour cream, a recipe I found on the website of a restaurant devoted to vegetable-based pancakes. It bears a certain resemblance to the food trend noted by the aforementioned Tournefort three hundred years ago: "It is likewise pretty common of late to eat them with salt-fish mixed with hard-boiled eggs and butter."

In fact, googling reveals that pancakes, or latkes, are a popular preparation among parsnip lovers. There are also recips for curries, a multitude of purees, sautes with orange juice and honey, gratins with cream and grand marnier, and the like.

Most commonly, the 'nips are scrubbed or peeled prior to use. Another method, however, is detailed in this charming 1931 description from Aunt Sammy's Radio Recipes: "Scrub parsnips clean, drop into lightlysalted boiling water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender. Drain, scrape off the skin, split lengthwise, and pull out the stringy cores. Dip the pieces in flour and fry in fat until golden brown or mash the parsnips after the cores have been removed, season and form into small cakes before frying." Modern agriculture has made removal of the cores an unneccessary, but its fun to look back at a time when that was not the case.

So, parsnips. That's your mission for this month, cooks, to discover, or rediscover, this wonderful root vegetable, or expand your repertoire of uses for it. At the very least, if you think you don't like parsnips, try them oven roasted, with or without herbs, and lightly salted. If you don't like them that way then it's reasonable to conclude that you won't like parsnips any way at all, but I'll bet they'll convert you.

Anyone else have any favorite uses or methods to share?
Last edited by Jenise on Mon Nov 27, 2006 8:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Carl Eppig » Wed Nov 01, 2006 6:20 pm

We've been buying them for decades, and adding them to our chicken stock.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Henrick » Wed Nov 01, 2006 7:08 pm

My Mom grew parsnips along with a lot of other root veggies, and we kids learned to love them all. Now days though, about the only way I use them is when I roast veggies on the grill, I do the veggies in a basket so they do not fall into the coals, the parsnips, I cut into strips several inches long (resembling french fries) and usually will blanche them before I start the other veggies. I love to use red and green peppers, and a couple jalapenos included. Also, I cut up some carrots, at least one large onion,and some yellow squash, and eggplant cut into cubes, along with some zucchini's. I will often add a couple Idahos potatoes, drench all them in olive oil, add kosher salt and fresh coarse ground black pepper. Of course the softer veggies are added toward the end of the cook, I like to about 20 minutes before I take them off, the grill, splash generously with some decent balsamic, and have even been known to use sherry vinegar instead of the balsamic. If it weren't so late I might do them tonight to go with the bone in pork roast from the Kamado.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:17 am

"Parsnips". My nickname at school!!!

I`m in, love them. Nothing special when I cook them but your suggestion is a good reminder to buy some.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Fri Nov 03, 2006 1:51 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:"Parsnips". My nickname at school!!!



You May wish you hadn't told me that. :twisted:
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Peter May » Fri Nov 03, 2006 3:34 pm

I love parsnips roasted alongside potatoes with the Sunday roast dinner. However I will only buy them (same with brussel sprouts) after the weather turns really cold and there have been severe frosts. (same with brussel sprouts).

Even though the shops stock both parsnips and sprouts all year now, I only hav ethem fromlate winter to spring. They taste better then and give us at least some small thing to look forward to during summer.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Fri Nov 03, 2006 4:00 pm

Peter, would freezing the brussels sprouts achieve something similar? I know in Holland the Dutch throw kale in the freezer to sweeten it up.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Henrick » Fri Nov 03, 2006 9:45 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:"Parsnips". My nickname at school!!!


And all this time I thought your nickname was Doris. Someday I have to hear that full story. :-)
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Fri Nov 03, 2006 10:29 pm

Bob Henrick wrote:And all this time I thought your nickname was Doris. Someday I have to hear that full story. :-)


Or, when you see him in a dress, all will become clear. :)
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Ross » Fri Nov 03, 2006 10:44 pm

A very nice parsnips side or dessert:

Serves 10; stores well.

2 lb sliced parsnips.
12 oz medium dice Bartlett pears
4 fl oz hot heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pears and parsnips separately untilthey are tender enough to mash with a fork. Drain and dry in oven or over low heat until the moisture has evaported. Combine the pears and parsnips, and puree.

2. Add the cream to the parsnips and pears and stir to form a smooth, light puree. Salt and pepper to taste and serve at once, or hold on heat for service.

Can easily be kept in the fridge and reheated.

***

Parsnips are one of our favorite roasting vegetables.

Regards, Bob
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by James Roscoe » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:43 pm

Plain old roasted parsnips are a thing of beauty. Why do they cost so much?
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Ross » Sat Nov 04, 2006 12:23 am

Another favorite, easy to make and freeze -- melds well in the fridge over night:

Gourmet's Version of Parsnip Soup

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced peeled gingerroot
(the candied type with the sugar soaked off work fine)
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound parsnips (about 3), peeled and cut into 1/8- inch slices (about 2 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
freshly grated nutmeg to taste

In a heavy saucepan cook the onion, the garlic, the gingerroot, the carrot, the celery, and the thyme in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the parsnips and the broth, bring the liquid to a boil, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Purée the soup in a blender and return to the pan. Stir in the nutmeg, enough water to thin the soup to the desired consistency if necessary, and salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 3 cups, serving 2.

Regards, Bob
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:42 am

All good recipes here, especially from Bob R!! I think I am going to have a crack at making some parsnip cakes with my Rhone-a- la Jenise this weekend. Could match my crab cakes enthusiasm eh.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Ross » Sat Nov 04, 2006 12:09 pm

Jenise, I like the first English use of the word:

1533 ELYOT Cast. Helthe (1539) 25 "Turnepes beinge welle boyled in water, and after with fatte fleshe, norysheth moche." [OED].

Their history of the word is interesting:

"[In 16-17th c. turnepe, in 16-19th c. turnep, from c 1782 turnip; the second element being NEEP, nepe, or nep, OE. np, ad. L. npus navew, turnip (mentioned by Columella and Pliny); the first element is uncertain, but is generally supposed to be F. tour or Eng. TURN, referring to its rounded shape. There is no kindred name in other langs., except when evidently from Eng., as in Welsh and Irish.] "

Regards, Bob
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Ross » Sat Nov 04, 2006 12:22 pm

"In the world of vegetables, there may be none more misundertood--and feared--than the parsnip."

Wow, ain't that the truth. I've been blathering on about turnips this morning -- misread or misremembered the IOTM -- sorry. :(

At least the recipes were on point. :)
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:01 pm

James Roscoe wrote:Plain old roasted parsnips are a thing of beauty. Why do they cost so much?


James, I guess it's because compared to say carrots, which are virtually indestructible, parsnips have a relatively short shelflife. They don't store their own moisture indefinitely, and as soon as they dry out, they turn to wood. In the refrigerator, one shouldn't expect them to last more than month.

Bob, great recipes! I especially love the soup--a soup is on my list of things to try this month. I'm also going to make a pot of stewed chicken broth and use Carl's suggestion of including parsnips. I've read about them being used this way before, and also sweet potatoes (yams). Have never done either.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by James Roscoe » Sat Nov 04, 2006 3:38 pm

Thanks for the response Jenise. My father is an avid gardener. I will ask him to throw some parsnips in next year. I will take all his surplus. I usually get a nice supply of other fresh veggies, but parsnips at this time of year...
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Peter May » Mon Nov 06, 2006 3:37 pm

Jenise wrote:Peter, would freezing the brussels sprouts achieve something similar? I know in Holland the Dutch throw kale in the freezer to sweeten it up.


Urgghhh -- there's little worse than a frozen brussel sprout -- they taste awful.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Nov 06, 2006 11:43 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:All good recipes here, especially from Bob R!! I think I am going to have a crack at making some parsnip cakes with my Rhone-a- la Jenise this weekend. Could match my crab cakes enthusiasm eh.


Well, missed the boat on the Rhone but parsnip cakes are made and ready to go. Guess we figure out a food and wine matchup eh!!!
As an afterthought, the idea of a duck dish with the cakes has me all ready to go now!!!!
BTW, has anyone mentioned Parsnip Wine?
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Jenise » Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:58 pm

Bob, I saw a ton of recipes on the net for parsnip wine. Something I absolutely had not anticipated, btw, but I guess the sugars make it a natural. Here's a recipe below for the curious, and if you think this is odd, well the fellow I got this recipe from also has recipes for spinach wine and broad bean wine on his tie. (Ewww.)

PARSNIP WINE

4 Ib. parsnips

8 oz. raisins

3 1/4 Ib. sugar

1 gallon water

Rind and juice of 2 large lemons and 2 Seville oranges

Pectozyme

Nutrient

Sherry yeast

This wine is best made in January when the parsnips have been well frosted and the seville oranges are available. The parsnips should be scrubbed thoroughly to remove all trace of dirt and any rusty portions should be cut out. They should then be cut up small and gently boiled until they are just soft. The liquor should then be strained on to the chopped raisins, the fruit rinds and 29 Ib. sugar, preferably Demerara sugar to add to the flavour. When cool the fruit juice, the nutrient and the fermenting yeast should be added. Ferment for five days, then strain out the raisins and fruit rinds and continue the fermentation for as long as possible, using the remaining three portions of 4 oz, sugar each time the S.G. falls below 1.010. Don't forget to rack this wine three times during maturation and, like all other dessert wines, it needs to be kept for two years before it reaches full maturity. Like elderberry wine it is a very old favourite.
Last edited by Jenise on Thu Nov 09, 2006 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Peter May » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:13 pm

When can we expect your tasting note, Jenise? :)
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Ross » Thu Nov 09, 2006 1:15 pm

I'm kinda losing track of all the parsnip recipes, but wanted to be sure this one is in the pack -- it was on the Times site yesterday and it sounds awfully good -- crepes filled with vegetables always go well in our house:

Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower, Parsnip and Leek Filling for Crepes
Time: 1½ hours

2 pounds (1 small or half a large) cauliflower, broken into small florets, stem and leaves discarded
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry (powdered) mustard
2½ teaspoons salt
2 small leeks or 1 large leek, white and light green parts only
¾ pound (about 3 medium) parsnips, quartered lengthwise, tough core discarded
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy or light cream or whole milk
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour.

1. Place a roasting pan in oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix 3 tablespoons butter, the olive oil, pepper and mustard. Drizzle about two-thirds of mixture over cauliflower; mix well. Sprinkle with 1½ teaspoons salt.

2. Spread cauliflower evenly in heated roasting pan and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, halve leeks almost to root end, leaving root end in one piece. In a large bowl, combine leeks, parsnips, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining butter-oil mixture. Mix well. Turn cauliflower over in pan, then add parsnips and leeks. Roast for 20 minutes, turning vegetables halfway through. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and chop into ¼- to ½-inch pieces. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks and cream or milk and set aside.

4. In a small saucepan, bring broth to a simmer. In another small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons butter with flour. Continue whisking for about 3 minutes; mixture should bubble gently but not brown. Remove from heat and slowly add broth, whisking to incorporate. Continue until all broth is used and sauce is smooth and creamy. Return to low heat and cook until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk into bowl of egg yolks and cream. Return to pan over medium-low heat just until steaming, 2 to 3 minutes; do not boil. Reserve 1 cup sauce for garnishing filled crepes. Add chopped vegetables to remaining sauce.

Yield: Filling and sauce for 12 crepes.
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Nov 09, 2006 8:51 pm

That sounds really good Bob. Will try your recipe after the rodeo ruckus has died down here!!
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Re: November IOTM: Parsnips

by Robert J. » Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:23 pm

Here's one from Deborah Madison that is just slammin'!

Breakfast Parsnips:

3 tbsp butter
1 lb. parsnips, as plump and round as possible, thinly sliced
1/2 c. toasted chopped walnuts or pecans
Warm Maple Syrup

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Don't let it get too hot. Add the parsnips and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden all over from the caramelizing sugars, about 10 minutes. Serve covered with nuts and maple syrup.

Enjoy! I love this place! :D
Last edited by Robert J. on Sun Nov 26, 2006 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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