Oh, sweet turnips…fondant?

... Oh, sweet turnips…fondant?" />

The humble turnip is thought of by some as simply an anchor for turnip greens. Their naturally bitter taste in raw form is off-putting to some diners, but this ‘should’ be blunted by a traditional preparation of cutting into small cubes and tossing them into a pot of braised turnip greens. This is a great concept with the objective of getting toothsome cubes, with a bite like roasted potatoes. One problem with that? You most often get mushy turnips, unlike roasted OR mashed potatoes. Tastes like slightly bitter and mushy mashed potatoes. NOT the desired result.

So, when I got a box of turnips recently, I knew that I had to do something differently. Because I don’t like mushy anything. I don’t even like mushy oatmeal, or grits. And I’m pretty sure that you don’t either. I’m equally sure that NObody likes the thought of their food tasting like bitter mashed potatoes.

I pondered the cooking process thereof, at length. I knew that browning was a must, just to spark the caramelization process. But that would only deal with the crust on the outside. The potential issue was whether or not the inside would be mushy. But in addition to that, I had to prepare these turnips fairly quickly so that they would not wilt and soften, which would contribute to undesirable mushiness.

Enter, the concept of fondant potatoes.

Fondant potatoes are prepared by carving each potato into a cylinder end-to-end. Then the potatoes are browned with butter on each end. After that, they are braised slowly in butter and stock (usually, chicken).

So, with that procedure addressed, I then tweaked the the recipe for the turnips. Instead of cylinders, I cut 9 large turnips into 3-inch cubes, to increase surface area for browning. To then increase the browning and the flavor, I tossed the turnip cubes in the following:

  • 1/4 cup of melted butter
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 scant pinch of each:
    • Dried thyme
    • Sea salt
    • Black pepper
    • Cumin

My thought was that blending the butter and the olive oil would yield a harder crust, by gently increasing the smoke point at which the turnips might start burning. Also, the butter and the salt would accelerate the caramelization process.

While tossing the ingredients above, place a 12-inch cast iron skillet in a 400 degree oven to preheat.

Once all the ingredients are tossed, pull out the hot skillet. It should be hot enough to sizzle the turnips when you lay them down. As you place them in the skillet, brush the turnip cubes with the leftover oil and butter mixture.

Place the skillet back into the oven and allow the turnips to brown for about 10-15 minutes. Note that the cook time will decrease as far as the browning, because the skillet was heated.

Remove the pan and flip the turnips. You should see a deep golden brown crust, which means that caramelization is taking place and the once bitter turnips are now developing a sweeter overall taste.

Brown the turnips on the other side for 10-15 minutes.

You should note the difference here between fondant potatoes and, essentially, fondant turnips. Turnips contain more moisture and less starch than potatoes, therefore you achieve the desired creamy middle. Note that I said creamy, NOT mushy! Also, you don’t have to bake them with the chicken broth unless you feel it necessary. I didn’t.

Remove the turnips from the oven and layer them on a serving platter. Serve while the browned crust is still crispy and scratches with the fork. In other words, serve it up as soon as you remove from the oven.

Sound bite from prepared ‘fondant’ turnips


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