Parsnips: The Story of an Under Appreciated Vegetable

Have you ever had a parsnip?  If not, you sir and/or ma’am, are missing out.  The pale and slightly more bulbous cousin of the carrot is a real treat.  While not as enjoyable as the oft colorful carrot in raw form, when cooked, even slightly, the parsnip transforms into a vegetable of pure delight.  It is creamy buttery sweet rich earthy amazingness.

A prolific pile of parsnips (via Wikimedia Commons)

I cannot recall when I first came around to trying parsnips, but I do believe it has only been in the past five years or so (maybe for Thanksgiving sometime, because that seems fitting).  Since then, the parsnip has been a mainstay in the veggie drawer of our fridge.  I add it to all sorts of thing; soups, stir fry, roasted veggies (possibly the best use), kimchi, etc.

The flavor of the parsnip is unique and totally its own with an amazing ability to pair with a wide variety of foods.  So why then hasn’t it gained more popularity?  Well, for one thing, I think it is a cooking vegetable.  Unlike the carrot, as I mentioned above, the parsnip is not great raw.  You have to coax the flavor out a bit which therefore requires a bit of culinary confidence (not I don’t say “culinary mastery.” You don’t have to be a seasoned chef to be able to cook some tasty food, you just have to be patient and have a bit of practice).  Secondly, because of its kind of unassuming and unknown quality, it proves vexing, and unless a recipe specifically calls for it, it is easy to over look.  Finally, it has a weird name.  Yeah, I know that is a lame explanation, but I honestly think that when people hear the word “parsnip” they cannot help themselves but to think of the medieval peasants sustaining on parsnip and turnip gruel.

Let me help.  Here is a pretty simple and very delicious dish you can make with parsnips quite quick and easily.  In addition, it utilizes another oft maligned veggie, the Brussels sprout.

What you will need:

  • 2 or 3 good sized parsnips, chopped (you can peel them if you want, but that isn’t entirely necessary)
  • About a pound of fresh Brussels sprouts cut into halves
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • About 1 to 1.5 tbsp Bacon fat (and if you don’t have that – first, shame on you, keep some in your freezer hence fourth – you can use butter, or olive oil – though butter will be more tasteful)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 or 2 tsp Caraway seeds
  • salt and black pepper

Start by heating the fat or butter or oil (whatever you’ve got) in a skillet or fry pan.  You’ll know it is hot enough when it sizzle-snaps when a few drops of water are splashed in it.  Throw in the onion and let it cook for a bit, browning up (give it a few occasional stirs).  Once the onions start to get translucent and maybe a bit browned, throw in the parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and garlic. At this point you are going to want the heat to be a little less than medium.  Let everything cook, only stirring occasionally.  You want the veggies to glaze a bit.  Once they start to brown and stick to the pan some, throw in a few splashes of the vinegar.  Don’t over do it here, our it”ll come out too acidic.  Just two or three brief splashes, enough to de-glaze the pan.  Add some salt, black pepper, and caraway seeds.  Stir and let cook a few more minutes (but not much longer).  Serve!

This is real good stuff (well at least in my, and my family’s, opinion).  Really it isn’t too hard.  The biggest thing is just to avoid overdoing the vinegar.  It’s totally okay for the parsnips and Brussels sprouts to still be a bit crunchy here, in fact I’d say its preferred.  It’s a great side dish with some kind of pork (chops, loin, what have you) or with Thanksgiving dinner (but, really, what isn’t a great side dish with Thanksgiving dinner?).

So yeah, parsnips folks.  Get on the bandwagon, ’cause they be good stuff.

~ by Nathaniel on November 6, 2013.

4 Responses to “Parsnips: The Story of an Under Appreciated Vegetable”

  1. My one and only experience with parsnip is in chicken soup. Every Jewish grandmother uses them…I think. Anyhow, I love Brussels sprouts and will be attempting to make this recipe! Thank you for sharing!

    • I love the absoluteness of “Every Jewish grandmother uses them.” It gives me a whole new and exciting way to think about Jewish grandmothers as an entire class of people (currently my only other knowledge of this group is that they are A. Jewish, and B. Grandmothers. I can tentatively deduce that they are also C. women and D. Mothers. Adding parsnip use fleshes them out more in wonderful degrees). Thank you! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

    • This is by far the greatest reply I’ve ever received. Still laughing….

  2. […] maybe I ought to just start a whole series of blog posts about root vegetables, because this one, in accompaniment with last weeks parsnip post, is definitely starting a trend (though, a part of it is just the time of year it is and the […]

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