The Book Vegetables

33. Creamed Turnips p.588

the recipe

Turnips are among the most maligned and under appreciated vegetables out there. They’re right up there with Lima beans and Brussels sprouts. Some day I’ll open a restaurant serving nothing but childhood nightmare vegetables, as far as I can tell I love them all.

Turnips have got a wonderful bite to them, and should be appreciated for what they are. My grandmother makes mashed creamed turnips she serves with roast beef. It’s the only vegetable my uncle will eat, but that’s because the turnips are swimming in so much cream and sugar the turnip is serving as more of a thickener than anything else. I love my grandmother dearly, and in their own way I love those turnips. Roast beef at her house wouldn’t be the same without the turnips and canned peas. But, I can’t say that they’re a cherished memory of my youth.

I liked that the turnips were left in good size chunks in this recipe. It allowed for some contrast between the sharp bite of the turnip, and the smooth cream sauce. I wasn’t nuts about the texture of the sauce, kinda slimy, and the white on beige coulour palate of the dish wasn’t really doing it for me either. The thyme and nutmeg worked really well here, both of which seem to have great affinities for roots and gourds of all types.

The recipe calls for white pepper, which I don’t really get. Obviously the purpose is to avoid sullying the sauce with black flecks which would be unpleasing to the eye. But it might have helped with the whiter shade of pale thing going on here. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but sprinkling this dish with parsley might not be crime against humanity.

I thought the flavours here were pretty good, but it wasn’t turnipy enough. The cream sauce masked a lot of the kick of the turnips, getting the kids to eat it shouldn’t be a problem, but it was missing something. I prepared this for a friend who’s decided that nouvelle cuisine is overrated, and who yearns for the days of butter in a butter sauce (he made me a memorable buttered rabbit). Escoffier would have loved this dish, but I grew up in the world that Alice Waters made and I’m a bit weirded out by vegetables swimming in cream.

I generally prefer my turnips roasted or grilled and relatively plain. The flavours in the sauce worked well with the turnips, but all the dairy cut the turnip flavours too far. There was nothing bad about it, but it was too mellow to satisfy my turnip craving.