Food & Drink
Once sidelined by spuds, nutmeggy parsnips provide long-term benefits
Published: January 4, 2012
So lets all thank a Brit for keeping the parsnip fire burning through the dark years. •
Half-mashed 'snips, in cinnamon chile sauce
Cut whole parsnips, peeled or not, into half-inch rounds until you have a cup, and steam them for eight minutes. Note: steaming parsnips temporarily releases an odor that has been compared to pee on a campfire. It doesn't bother the food.
While still hot, pound the parsnip rounds, along with a clove of minced garlic – ideally with a mortar and pestle, otherwise do what you do to make mashed potatoes. Because of the parsnip's tapered shape, some rounds will have much larger diameters than others, which varies the cooking times and creates a mix of soft and chewy parts. This makes the dish more interesting.
Mince a medium-sized onion or leek and sauté in a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil on low/medium heat, until translucent. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon, which harmonizes with the parsnip's nutmeg tones. Stir in lots of red chile flakes-preferably mild, which allows you to add a flavorful amount without hurting anyone. Turn the heat to low and stir in the mashed parsnip rounds, gently mixing them into the sauce. Each round, despite being mashed beyond recognition, will retain a semblance of individual identity as the sauce helps them untangle from each other, and you might even find that some of them (gasp) escaped smashing altogether.
Even if Jews aren't known for parsnip wizardry, in honor of Hanukkah (and of parsnip superiority over potatoes), here's an easy recipe for parsnip pancakes that are moist, fluffy, and full of flavor. To make six pancakes, grate two cups of parsnip and add it to a bowl in which two eggs have been beaten. Add a half-teaspoon of salt, black pepper to your liking, and three green onions, sliced as thinly as possible lengthwise into two-inch matchsticks, and mix it all together. Heat a cast iron skillet on low heat with enough safflower or other high heat oil to cover the bottom. Use your hands to squeeze together golf bal sized wads and place them in the skillet, gently pressing them flat but not thin. The mixture appears tenuous, and you may wonder if it will hold together. Go around each pancake with the spatula, pushing in toward the center, until the pancakes can all slide around on the hot skillet – about 4 minutes. Then flip them and fry the same amount on the other side. Optional dipping sauce: soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, cider vinegar, cinnamon, chile flakes, and sesame seeds, in that order and all to taste.
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