By Danielle French

The Neglected Rutabaga

Turnips, rutabaga’s I call them neglected vegetables. I won’t say no one likes them but ask the family if they would like to have either for dinner and no one is putting a hand up. They generally are vegetables I save for stews and soups and most often given the choice between using carrots, celery or celery root for my soup base, I skip over rutabagas. They have a unique taste sort of sweet and mixed into soup their flavour stands out.

A little history

My mother used to have a rutabaga on hand to use in the stock from the Christmas goose. She said that it absorbed the flavour like a sponge. She rarely bought turnips but always had a rutabaga in the cool cellar for whatever emergency might unfold in the soup pot. In reading a little bit of the history of rutabaga it was a staple during the war when there were food shortages. Rutabagas keep forever (well many weeks), and can be used in a variety of ways and are nutritious. I’m  sure she had a love hate relationship with being a staple of her meal during childhood more often than she would have liked.
Root vegetable sketch -rutabaga
Illustration by Carlyle Apps

A perfect side dish

This recipe couldn’t be simpler to make. My January pledge is to eat everything in my pantry, fridge and freezer before heading to the store, the last two in storage seemed to call out to me. The bigger problem – how to disguise the flavour so Shawn and Aubrey Rose would actually eat it. My strategy focused on “out front and undisguised”. A Rutabaga Mash. Peeled, boiled and lightly mashed it with a fork,. Add a little butter, salt and pepper and just before serving  a touch of cream.  A delicious side dish is ready. Surprisingly, everyone loved it. My mother would have added bitter greens like escarole to the mix, slightly wilting them before serving. I’d too was tempted to add a handful of baby spinach but opting instead for purity and revealing the vegetable on its own for dinner. Serve alongside with a grilled sausage and salad for a perfect winter meal. 

Rutabaga Mash

1 medium size rutabaga, peeled and cut into 2” cubes

4 tablespoons butter

Salt, pepper

2-4 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Rutabaga mash

Add the cut rutabaga into a medium pot of water as “salty as the sea” about two tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and gently simmer until tender when pierced with a fork – about 20 minutes. 

Drain the water.

Mash the soft rutabaga with a fork or potato masher in loose chunks. Add butter and more salt if required and pepper to taste.

If desired, add a splash of heavy cream and a handful of sturdy greens like escarole or spinach.

Serve warm. 

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