Let’s talk about turnips for a minute. I’m going to admit it. I don’t like turnips. I’ve tried them roasted. No good. My roommate once made them glazed with butter and sugar. Better, but still, I wouldn’t have gone to the grocery store and spent money on them.
But last Friday, when I picked up my CSA bag, what did I get? Turnips.
Turnips are root vegetables, and they are usually a mixture of purple and white in color. Once you cut into them, you find a vegetable with much the same consistency as a potato, but without the starchiness. (Cut a potato, and look at your knife. See that white stuff? Starch. I think it’s starch, anyway.)
In the South, I grew up around turnip greens, potent greens cooked for hours with salted pork or side meat. My general impression of turnip greens was a resounding “eww.” I wasn’t raised on them, and didn’t get introduced to them until I was a teenager and my eating habits were firmly set.
Turnips, the bulbs themselves, are said to have a mild flavor, bitter before cooking, but sweet in the cooked state.
Anyway, blah blah blah. Turnips, in my estimation, managed to be somehow bitter and bland all at once. But the CSAcation is about meeting challenges. So, I cooked with the blasted things.
I found a basic recipe for scalloped turnips. This recipe called for cream, milk, and thinly sliced turnips. It reminded me of potatoes au gratin. Which got me thinking: turnips au gratin. I searched around through several recipe and came up with one that follows the basic premise that if you add bacon, heavy cream, and cheese to something, it can’t not taste good. And since my Joy of Cooking said that turnips pair especially well with spicy cheeses, I read that as stinky cheeses, and I went with parmigiana, my new favorite cheese.
Side note: I went to the grocery store to pick up some parmigiana. I stood at the stand, picking up different sized blocks of cheese, before choosing one and dropping it in my basket, and walking away. But as I did so, a man standing nearby stopped me. “Can I ask you a question,” he asked me. Sure!, I said. “Is that a stinky cheese?” I smiled. “Oh yes,” I said, so happy with the stinky loveliness. The man scrunched up his face. “Eww,” he said, shaking his head. He walked away. I should be thankful my girlfriend loves me even though I love stinky cheese.
Back to the recipe. What came out this whole thing was a casserole with a bubbly, crispy top, and unfortunately, a soupy, saucy inside. It was a half-success.
Turnips Au Gratin
4 slices bacon
3 small sweet vidalia onions, with stalks removed, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Six turnips, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated parmigiana
1. In a cast-iron skillet, fry bacon until just golden brown. Remove from pan, but reserve grease. To bacon grease, add onions. Saute 2-3 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add garlic, and saute one more minute until fragrant. Add cream, milk, and thyme. Bring to simmer, and then remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally.
2. In a large bowl, add the sliced turnips. Pour the cream mixture over the turnips, and stir to coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Add crumbled bacon and stir.
3. In a greased casserole dish, add a layer of turnip mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over top, and repeat in layers, ending with turnips.
4. Bake, covered with foil, in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove foil, add final quarter cup of cheese, and bake an additional 20 minutes until turnips are soft (a fork should easily pierce through them).
5. Let dish rest about ten minutes, then serve warm.
Now, remember that I said these proportions yielded a cheesy, lovely creation that was pretty soupy inside. Well, I’m a low budget operation over here, so I haven’t re-tested this recipe yet. Key word: yet. When I do, I’ll do 1 cup heavy cream, no milk, and go from there. Cooking is about trial and error.
But what does this all mean for my relationship with the turnip? Very good things. This incredibly unhealthy dish was fantastic. I made turnips taste like potatoes, and my roommate and my girlfriend were both very happy. My girlfriend told me that she almost went back for seconds, but the heavy cream and bacon told her to hold off.
CSAcation success this week: making turnips edible.