Rutabagas – what can you say about them? I think they are one of those foods that people either love or hate and I’m not sure that someone who dislikes them can be convinced to feel otherwise. At the supermarket they have a back-alley kind of feel to them by this time of year. Usually coated in wax and sitting in a corner with other mysterious vegetables that look like extras in a horror movie. You can grow them in the home garden. We tried it once, and while waiting for them to achieve the size of ones we had gotten at the store, we let them get so tough and woody that no amount of boiling could render them edible. They would not even compost, and retained their shape long after everything around them in the compost pile had gone to crumbles. We plan to give them another go this coming year, and will harvest them at a much smaller size, perhaps even going so far as to read and heed the suggested harvest size on the seed packet.
Anyway, humble though they may appear to some, we have always loved them. By “we”, I mean Larry and I. The girls viewed rutabagas on the dinner table as a particularly egregious form of child abuse, and though they would eat the requisite “just try them” one bite, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the whole thing. Now, we can eat them in peace. A few cubes in beef stew or vegetable soups gives an earthy depth of vegetable-ness you just can’t get from anything else. [please don’t speak to me of parsnips or turnips – despite how much I love rutabagas, I can’t abide those close relations. I do plan to give them another try soon, to see if my palate has adjusted any] We like them roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, or just boiled with a bit of butter. This preparation is heavenly, the rutabagas given the starring role, with support from bit players whose job is to offer a contrast that underscores the sweet, earthy and slightly bitter flavor.
I began with two rutabagas, the size of large grapefruits. And yes, I got them at the supermarket and no I don’t know where they were grown. A long way from here probably. Hey – I said we would grow some this coming summer, ok? They have never been much fun to peel until this kind of peeler came along. It makes the job much easier.Cut them into cubes – about 1 inch or so. The easiest way to do that, is to cut them from end to end, so that you have two halves with a flat side to lay on the cutting board – much easier than try to cut slices from the whole round. Cut each half into 1 inch thick slices, then cut the slices into strips, and the strips into cubes.Place the cubes in a saucepan, add a teaspoon or so of kosher salt, add water to almost cover, and put over medium heat.Simmer covered for about 15 minutes, and then add 1 potato – this one was about 6 ounces – cut into cubes. Simmer another 12 to 15 minutes, until both the rutabaga and potato are tender and cooked through. Drain. The potato is there to give a bit smoother texture to the final result, and can be left out if you prefer to keep down the carbs, or just don’t have any around.While the rutabagas are simmering, you can ready the other ingredients. Smash and mince a couple biggish cloves of garlic, and peel a small onion. Slice the onion very thinly.Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in small saute pan, and add the onion and garlic. Cook, covered, over very low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until limp and completely cooked, but not at all browned – sweated actually, if you want to be technical about it. Keep an eye on them, and get off the heat if they start to brown.You want them to look like this – set aside. Cut 4 ounces of very sharp cheddar in cubes.When the veg is drained, put in a bowl.Mash ‘em up.Or use one of these handy little deals – I was starting to get into a serious “losing the light” crunch, so I ended up using the immersion blender – ordinarily, I use the masher though.Give it a little splash of buttermilk to add a little more creaminess and zip.Gently fold in the onion and galic and the cheese – you want it to be a rough mixture, not really uniform. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.Sprinkle a little chopped parsely and more freshly ground pepper over the top.It went very well with our dinner of grilled pork chops and warm rice and mushroom salad – I could sit down with the whole bowl and a spoon though – but that would just be rude.