A few weeks ago, Terry wrote about his duck-filled dinners in Omaha. Well, while he was eating all sorts of duck, I was delving into some of my own favorites – not least, wonderful offal. My first Omaha dinner at La Buvette? Lamb kidneys on a bed of puréed parsnips. I just loved the whole thing – the intense, meaty chunks of kidney, the fluffy bed of parsnips. The dark sauce pooling around the white purée and a hearty big red wine alongside.
It was a great meal for an autumn evening after a day on the road. And the parsnips were a marvel: at once sweet and savory and silky and faintly earthy. They were just wonderful, and we knew that when we got home, we would have to make some.
Turns out this is (a) really easy and (b) really luxurious. (Well, cream. And butter. So, luxury, yeah.) These puréed parsnips are an excellent addition to your fancy-family-dinner arsenal. This recipe is a terrific change from mashed potatoes and goes wonderfully as a side with any savory roasted meat – say, a turkey.
It also would be wonderful as the foundation of a vegetarian main course, with our curried lentils with poached eggs or with sautéed mushrooms. And when it’s not big-deal holiday dinner time, see the Kitchen Notes for an alternative approach to puréed parsnips that is less rich, more everyday friendly.
1 pound parsnips, topped, peeled and sliced thin (see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1. Put the parsnips in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add the milk, cream and butter. You want just enough liquid to barely cover the vegetable. Don’t cover so deeply that the parsnips become invisible. Gently bring everything to a boil and then simmer, keeping an eye on the heat, until the parsnips are completely soft – about 12 minutes. Raise the heat to a boil for about 5 minutes to reduce the volume of liquid by half.
2. Let it cool a bit, then purée in a blender until all is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Done.
Picking parsnips. Parsnips are harvested once a year and, if you’ve ever grown them, you know that they are best if they are harvested late in the fall, after a heavy frost but before the ground freezes hard. While they have tremendous staying power in storage, older parsnips, or those that have been stored in less than optimal conditions, may be a bit soft. Don’t buy those parsnips! And don’t buy the ones with hairy roots all over them. Beware the usual bruises and bad spots, and make sure to choose firm rather slim parsnips with slender shoulders. The great big ones are best for soups, not for purées. Parsnips have a darker core that, in larger examples, tends to be rather woody. Some cooks cut out the core. I didn’t for this recipe, and it was fine. But if the only parsnips you are finding are those giant ones, then, in the prep stage, after peeling, cut the parsnip into quarters and trim out the darker core.
A lighter alternative. Put the sliced parsnips in chicken stock just to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until soft. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Purée the parsnips in a blender, adding dashes of the cooking stock, until smooth. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter (and some cream or half and half if you wish); whirl around again in the blender. Add salt and pepper and serve.
BTW, we now have a Blendtec blender, and we love it. Not least for its impressive power (the blades are not sharp, but blunt – it’s so mighty that it just pulverizes everything). It also cleans up easily (again, no sharp blades to fear).
Related post on Blue Kitchen: curried lentils with poached eggs