Turnips for Thanksgiving? Don't turn up your nose just yet.
For home cooks wanting to shake up their side-dish game, turnips are a terrific option. Nutritious, versatile and easy to prepare, they're one of several in-season vegetables that are easy to turn into tasty trimmings for your holiday turkey.
In our third and final story on Thanksgiving side dishes themed by color, we're focusing on white dishes — everything from classic mashed potatoes to more unexpected sides like roasted cauliflower with an Indian-inspired flair, turnips and other white vegetables.
Many home cooks tend to overlook turnips, but Elisa Sloss encourages people to give them a try.
A good source of vitamin C, the root vegetable has a fairly mild taste and can take on a variety of flavors, depending on what ingredients you add, said Sloss, a registered dietitian at the Hy-Vee Supermarket at 51st and Center Streets.
When selecting turnips, look for smaller ones, which are sweeter and more tender. Older, larger turnips can have a stronger, slightly bitter flavor and tougher, woodier texture. They can be roasted, mashed, whipped or sautéed; used in casseroles, gratins, soups and stews as you would a potato; or even pickled.
Sloss likes to make puréed turnips. Simply steam or boil peeled and cubed turnips until fork-tender, purée them in a food processor until smooth and creamy, then season with salt, pepper or other spices of your choice.
Adding butter and cream creates a richer-tasting purée, though Sloss prefers to save calories and fat and use a splash of fat-free evaporated milk instead. Even without butter or cream, it's a warm, satisfying dish with fewer calories and carbs than typical holiday sides like mashed potatoes, she said.
For many at Thanksgiving, though, the meal wouldn't be complete without a big scoop of rich, creamy mashed potatoes.
Everyone has a favorite version of this classic, comforting dish. Some like them simple, with just milk, butter, salt and pepper. Others amp up the flavor with add-ins like roasted garlic, grated cheese, sour cream, smoked paprika, caramelized onions or crumbled bacon.
Christina Cox of Omaha likes her mom's version best. Called party potatoes, the dish is a longtime family favorite and usually eaten only at the holidays, so it's a real treat.
“If she doesn't make them, there might be problems,” Cox said.
Potato flakes give the dish a silky-smooth texture, while butter, cream cheese, milk and a sour cream-based dip make it super rich and seriously addictive, she said.
For Ellen Walsh-Rosmann, a few lumps in her potatoes are just fine. She makes smashed potatoes using organic Kennebec potatoes, which she and her husband grow on their farm near Harlan, Iowa.
She hates peeling potatoes, so the skin stays on. It also gives the dish a rustic look and a better taste, she said. “It adds a little more texture, flavor and color.”
While the potatoes are boiling, she sautés chopped garlic in butter until lightly browned. The cooked potatoes and sautéed garlic get a few turns in the bowl of a stand mixer to break them up a bit, then she mixes in a little milk and plain Greek yogurt.
Another of her favorites is cauliflower. It can easily be jazzed up with any fresh herbs or fragrant spices you like, and it works in a variety of cooking methods.
For roasted cauliflower, Walsh-Rosmann tosses bite-size florets with olive oil, spreads them on a baking sheet, then roasts them in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes. She likes to give the dish an Indian-inspired spin by adding aromatic spices like ground cumin, coriander, ginger or curry powder.
In keeping with the white theme, other options for the Thanksgiving menu include parsnips, onion and fennel. All three vegetables are remarkably versatile and easy to cook.
Onions add great flavor to many dishes, but they also work well as a main ingredient in savory sides like onion gratin and creamed pearl onions.
Similar in shape and texture to carrots but with an off-white skin, parsnips have a sweet, nutty, somewhat anise flavor. They can be roasted, boiled, braised, fried, steamed or mashed.
A creamy-white bulb with frilly green fronds, fennel has a complex, slightly licorice taste. Thinly sliced fennel bulb gives salads and slaw extra flavor and crunch. For a simple side dish, cut fennel bulbs into wedges, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until tender.
Recipe: Buttered Turnip Puree
• 3 large turnips, peeled and cut into uniform chunks
• 1 quart milk
• 3 fresh thyme sprigs
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and gently smashed with the side of a knife
• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the turnips, milk, thyme and garlic in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat and partially cover the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the turnips are tender; the tip of a paring knife should go through without resistance.
Drain the turnips, reserving the cooking liquid, and transfer to a food processor (discard the thyme sprigs). Add about 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and the butter, season with plenty of salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Add more of the liquid if necessary. Serve hot.
— Recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork.com
Recipe: Mashed Turnips
• 4 cups turnips or rutabagas (3 pounds), peeled and diced
• ¼ cup unsalted butter
• 2 cups heavy cream
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Place turnips in a large pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender — about 15 minutes — and drain. Put turnips through a food mill or puree in a food processor. Stir in butter, cream and seasonings. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.
— Recipe courtesy of RD.com
Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower
• 1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
• 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• our choice of spices (optional): cumin, onion powder, coriander, curry powder, parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, rosemary, etc.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with seasoning, if using. Roast for 30 minutes, until lightly browned and tender. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving bowl.
Recipe: Creamed Pearl Onions
• 6 cups water
• 50 pearl onions
• ¼ cup butter
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Dash pepper
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1 cup half-and-half cream
• ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
• 3 tablespoons grated Parmes an cheese
• Pimiento strips, optional
In a Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Cut off root ends of onions and make an X in the core. Add onions to boiling water; boil for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water; peel and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in broth and cream. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the parsley, cheese and onions.
Pour into an ungreased 1-quart baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir. Top with pimientos if desired. Bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly and heated through. Body Copy: Makes 6 servings.
Cook's note: To bake immediately instead of chilling, bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.
Nutrition information: 3/4 cup equals 209 calories, 13 grams fat, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 501 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber and 5 grams protein.
— Recipe courtesy Taste of Home