Countless times you’ve reached for the lettuce, grabbed some carrots and inspected the asparagus, all the while ignoring a far more interesting item. This other vegetable was there the whole time in the produce section also hoping for some attention, but too often it gets lost among the staples. On a slow day it might get a quizzical look before you move on to fetch the milk.
It’s the parsnip, and it deserves some respect. Parsnips are a root vegetable, and though they’re available year round, winter is their time to shine. If they were orange, you might mistake them for carrots. Similar in shape and related to that other veggie, parsnips are a pale tan in color. Taste-wise, they are a bit sweeter, and texturally not quite as crisp.
They’re also delicious. Parsnips can be eaten raw, but with a woody center they don’t offer the satisfying crunch of a carrot. Impart some heat, though, and things get far more interesting. Because of their soft, almost creamy texture when cooked, parsnips can deftly be inserted into a batch of mashed potatoes, boiled along with the spuds. They can also be simmered in soups.
I prefer to roast them, either alone or with carrots and onions. The dry heat of the oven helps intensify parsnips’ flavor and adds visual appeal via the browning effect that culinarians and “Jeopardy” contestants know as the Maillard reaction.
Roasted parsnips make a great side dish to any number of meals, especially ones involving meat. I like to think of them as a more nutritional alternative to fried potatoes.
Parsnips can act as a backbone to many herbs and spices. I recommend experimenting with your favorites. For this introduction, we’ll pair them with a coating of olive oil, dried tarragon and parsley, and salt and pepper. Then it’s just a matter of throwing them in the oven. Ready to take the parsnip plunge? Let’s do this.
(Makes about 4 servings)
- 4-6 medium parsnips, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon
Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While the oven warms, peel the parsnips with a vegetable peeler, and then cut them into bite-size chunks no bigger than half an inch.
Step 2: Put the chopped parsnips into a bowl and add the oil, herbs and seasonings. Toss well, making sure the pieces are evenly coated.
Step 3: Lay the parsnips in a baking pan or on a baking sheet, spreading out the pieces evenly so they are not stacked on top of each other.
Step 4: Put the pan in the oven and cook the parsnips for 20 to 30 minutes or until they start to take on a nice brown color.
Congratulations! You’ve just made roasted parsnips. After the parsnips are done cooking, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and promptly serve them as a side dish with your favorite meal. Here they are dished up with a turkey patty melt as an alternative to fried potatoes.