Turnips and parsnips are not a taste I grew up with. It kind of surprises me as I was exposed to all kinds of different foods, heavy with Eastern European influence (not that the turnip or parsnip originated from that part of the world). However, root vegetables were a staple in my childhood household, but I don't remember turnips and parsnips being part of the repertoire.
Fast forward into adult life, my husband introduced me to what is now one of my favorite tastes, parsnips. Have you ever had parsnips mashed up like potatoes with butter and garlic? Or added them to soup? They are mild and sweet, and were used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. They mimic the taste of a roasted carrot, but with more complexity. I also add them to stews for a layer of unsuspected flavor.
For me, eating turnips was just a natural progression from parsnips. They are however very different in flavor from other root vegetables, more like a peppery radish with a bitter edge. Very distinct in taste but amazing when roasted, which brings on a milder flavor.
Both the turnip and the parsnip have their healthful qualities. The parsnip is high in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. It also contains antioxidants and both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, while the turnip is high in vitamin C.
I decided I wanted to try out some new Thanksgiving side dishes, it's always fun to mix new tastes with old favorites.
The sweet flavor of the parsnips and the peppery taste of the turnips had me craving a smokey version of gratin with some heat.
Over the past year I have been following culinary food trends with my work for Sargento Cheese (read about it in my first post). Smokey flavors and Habanero peppers added to dishes have been a mainstay of what is hot for 2013.
In this dish, to infuse a smokey heat taste as well as a creamy flavor, I chose to use a mix of Sargento's Pepper Jack Cheese and Sargento's Chef Blends Shredded 6 Cheese Italian. The 6 Cheese Italian includes Fontina in its blend, a melty cheese well-known for its use in gratins and one of my favorites. The Pepper Jack, chock full of Habanero and jalapeno peppers paired well with the peppery flavor of the turnips. Every bite was like a little dance of flavored heat. You are going to love this one.
I also got to use my food processor, which has that amazing slicing system (they have a smaller version too) that allows me to slice veggies so perfectly thin.
This side dish will not get lost in the sea of Thanksgiving food on the buffet table. It will truly stand out and be remembered. Happy Holidays!
Smokey Turnip and Parsnip Gratin
- 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound turnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1-1/4 cups Sargento's Off the Block Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
- 1-1/4 cups Sargento's Chef Blends Shredded 6 Cheese Italian
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1-3/4 cups half and half, scalded
- Prepare a 2-quart baking dish by greasing with butter. Set aside.
- Use the slicer blade of your food processor to process the turnips and parsnips into very thin slices. (A mandolin can works as well.)
- In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper. Begin layering 1/4 of the turnips and parsnips in the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the first layer of turnips and parsnips with 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Repeat with 2 more layers of vegetables, flour mixture and cheese. Top with remaining turnips and parsnips slices. Dot with 1/4 cup butter, then pour hot half and half over potatoes.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes. Parsnips and turnips should be soft when pierced with a fork and cheese should be brown on top.
- Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
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Disclosure: While this content has been made possible by Sargento Cheese, as always all opinions are my own. For quality and great flavor, please include this wonderful family brand in all your holiday dishes!
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