I’ve been making a lot of mashed things lately. I’m beginning to wonder if I have some unconscious aggression seething inside me that’s coming out in my cooking, or something. After all, there are few things more cathartic than really pounding the heck out of some root vegetables. I learned in a Belgian restaurant that the Flemmish word for mash, apparently, is stoemp, which I really like the sound of. I think it’s a very accurate sound to convey the process of smashing your boiled food to a pulp. Well, until you get out the handheld mixer and decide to whip it up, to make it less stoemped and a little more light airy (the question is, does this then mean the suppressed aggression has reached scary levels?).
Anyways, I’ve been mashing just about every root vegetable known to man, except the classic potato. I made some very lovely mashed sweet potatoes (they were the light orange color I’m currently fancying painting my bathroom!), lightly sweetened with maple syrup but with a dash of salt for contrast. I was at a friend’s for dinner a couple of nights ago where we had cheesy beer waffles for supper (which, by the way may possibly be the absolute best use of a waffle iron EVER! They were amazing. I definitely will find the recipe). But, when we looked, the main other foodstuffs we could turn up was a large rutabaga. So, I iron chefed it with the other things I could find, those being: a lime, cream cheese, butter, cilantro, garlic, onion, and a small green bell pepper. Rutabagas aren’t particularly flavorful, so we figured we could add whatever we wanted to it, as long as the rest of the ingredients went together. I minced the onion and bell pepper and sautéed them. Meanwhile I peeled, chopped, and boiled the rutabaga until it was soft, and drained the water off. Then I smashed together the rutabaga with a couple of Tablespoons of the cream cheese and a plop of butter for creaminess, and the onion and pepper for some extra flavor. Inspired by the quasi-Latin-Americaness of the onions and pepper we also made a sort of chimichurri by mincing a clove of garlic, and a couple Tablespoons of cilantro, mixing these with a tsp. of lime zest, a squeeze of the lime, and finally a drizzle of olive oil to hold it all together. We sprinkled this on top of the mashed rutabaga, and it was actually quite delicious. (It didn’t go with the waffles at all though, oh well, that’s when you pretend you’ve made the food to be eaten in mini courses.)
But all this is really a digression because I actually want to talk about my favorite mash, the parsnips. If you’re wondering what parsnips are (or confusing them with other ‘nips, like turnips) they’re the ones that look like white carrots. But, they don’t taste like carrots at all – thankfully because I am on carrot strike (I’ve had one carrot too many lately). Parsnips have a lovely sweet and nutty flavor that makes them very tasty when roasted and also delicious mashed. They’re a fun alternative to mashed potatoes. They look like mashed potatoes but they taste more akin to sweet potatoes. Like with most roots, you have to chop off their tops and peel them before cooking them. And, most recipes you find for parsnips will tell you that you have to halve them and take out the inner core as well. I think that’s a load of bunk. It’s a ton of extra work, you lose a lot of parsnip mass, and if you cook the parsnips until they’re soft, I never even notice a difference in the texture between the outside versus the core. Suffice it to say, I usually skip that step.
For the parsnips I made most recently I added sour cream, instead of cream and butter, because I wanted the richness of the sour cream and also its tanginess to contrast with the sweetness of the parsnips (that, and I happened to have leftover sour cream, and I personally believe that sour cream is one of those ingredients that makes almost anything taste better, kind of like bacon).
Whipped parsnips with sour cream
- 5 or so parsnips
- Around 1/4-1/3 cup sour cream, or several good plops
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and chop the parsnips into inch long chunks (and halve the chunks for the thicker ends). Put them in a pot and fill with water until just covered. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then bring down to a simmer and cook for around 30 minutes, until the parsnips are quite easily pierced with a fork. Drain the water off.
- Add the sour cream and puree/whip up the ‘nips with a hand held blender or mixer. Or, if you don’t have either of those, just smash the parsnips and sour cream together by hand using a great deal of vigor and enthusiasm (or pent up aggression). Add salt and pepper to taste and serve as a side dish. Or mound in a bowl and cover with a hearty stew.