Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Parsnips have long been relegated to the back burner in the minds of many cooks who occasionally think of including them in a root-vegetable mash. Otherwise they’re roasted to accompany the holiday bird, cooked beyond recognition in a New England boiled dinner or mixed with potatoes for a wholesome puree.
But in the Middle Ages they were highly prized not so much for eating but for what they could do.
Lore has it that Crusaders wore them raw as a garland around the neck to ward off snakes. More viscerally warriors thought they reduced swollen testicles. Who knew!
Fast forward to the modern age and parsnips are highly regarded in many dishes. Especially in our exapnding farmer's markets they're a staple storage vegetable in the fall and winter; come April spring-dug parsnips are highly prized for the overwintered sweetness.
Local parsnips from Fishbowl Farm paired with mushrooms for a souffle
Chefs prepare silken purees with a dash of truffle oil or fill raviolis with their earthy sweetness. Recently I was served a thin crust pizza with glazed parsnips that was divine.
The British have always favored parsnips, and the exemplary English food author, Jane Grigson, has offered creative recipes for parsnips in her many books--my favorite being her precious tome, Good Things.
Jane Grigson's parsnip and mushroom souffle
In that book a parsnip and mushroom soufflé appears, and it’s one of the most brilliant uses of the vegetable. Herewith is my adaptation of Jane Grigson’s parsnip soufflé.
Parsnip and mushroom soufflé
1/1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and quartered
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 egg yolks,
4 egg whites
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Put the parsnips into a pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms by sautéing them gently in 2 tablespoons of the butter along with the crushed garlic. Set aside.
When the parsnips are tender put them through a ricer or food mill into a mixing bowl. Add the cooked mushrooms and the remaining butter, eggs and cream; season very generously with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Whip the whites until stiff peaks form. Stir in a serving spoon size amount of whipped egg whites into the parsnip mixture to temper it and then gently fold in the remaining whites.
Transfer the mixture to a buttered soufflé dish (2 quart is fine) or a deep baking dish. Affix a buttered collar if you wish for the smaller size pan to hold the rising puff in shape.
Bake for 20 minutes until jiggly and somewhat firm and nicely golden. Serve immediately. It goes beautifully with any kind of roast, especially chicken or pork.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.