After last week’s relatively successful turn with turnips and rutabagas, I didn’t feel the full-on pressure to have a go at either of them again, but since I had two extra turnips I figured I might as well try them good and mashed.
As I prepared for this lower-key battle, I totally wasn’t intimidated by the actual cooking part because I thought mashing turnips couldn’t be all that different from mashing potatoes, which goes like this at my house (now that we’ve graduated from the add-water-to-powder kind): boil the potatoes in a pot with water for however long, then drain the water, add milk and butter or whatever, and mash. I don’t know the exact process since I’m not the one who does it because the mashing looks like it takes more elbow grease than I care to expend on potatoes, but I’ve seen it done and it seems pretty easy.
However, since mashed turnips would be another example of a beige vegetable masquerading as a potato, and that has always disappointed me before, I didn’t really want to take chances on winging it.
For Christmas, Lauren gave me one of the best cookbooks ever in the history of the universe. I say this with authority because, you know, I know so much about cooking. So, this amazing awesome cookbook was written by my most favorite chef in all the world, Scott Peacock, who, as you know, was most recently the chef at Watershed, my most favorite restaurant in the galaxy. So here’s how my favorite chef in the world from my favorite restaurant in the galaxy made a book that became my most favorite cookbook in the universe: he filled it chock full of fatty, Southern recipes that make me nostalgic for biscuits with my Bahboo; and he called it The Gift of Southern Cooking. Thank you, Scott Peacock. I accept.
I fully intended to consult my favorite cookbook and follow Scott Peacock’s recipe to the letter so my turnips would be tasty and Southern-perfect.
Then Saturday night I was at Tom and Melissa’s house and they wrapped potatoes and butter (and onions, ack) in foil, camping style, and popped them in the oven. They came out super mushy and perfect for mashing. While I painstakingly picked the onions out of my mushy potatoes, I considered whether popping my turnips in the oven with butter and foil might make them mushy, too. I hadn’t had my sit-down with Scott Peacock yet, but I was pretty sure I was onto something.
Here’s where my growth and onto-somethingness meets my favorite famous chef’s expertise and equals exciting:
“Baking turnips brings out their sweetness and intensifies their flavor. In this [mashed turnips] recipe, they go in the oven …” said Scott Peacock. He also said “…wrap the baking dish tightly with a double thickness of foil.”
For real. My genius amazes me.
If only I wasn’t so busy admiring myself to actually follow through on that genius.
The extremely straightforward recipe (thank you, Scott Peacock) called for three pounds of turnips. I had two turnips. Then the recipe said to melt half a stick of unsalted butter in a baking dish. I had half a stick of salted butter. I’ll give you a second to do all that math.
OK, so, I melted half a stick of salted butter in my baking dish. Then I cut up my two turnips and tossed them in the butter. The only things left to add before wrapping my dish in parchment paper and foil were ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. I ground what looked like enough pepper and poured on some salt, probably…about…a tablespoon. Maybe three.
While I was doing this I kept thinking about the success of the planning of this endeavor, how right I had been about baking turnips to make them mushy for mashing, and that what I was doing now during the cooking portion of the show was probably fine (even though I wasn’t exactly following directions), because I’m clearly so good at all of this now. So. Effing. Good.
Oven on. Turnips in. Turnips out.
I peeled back the foil to view my masterpiece. My masterpiece was a puddle of sloppy mess. Oily, buttery, sloppy mess. Even though Scott Peacock said to mash the turnips coarsely with a fork, I got out my potato masher and started pounding my mess into goo. Gross. I tried pouring off some of the butter. Still gross. Then I got out a strainer and mashed the turnips in that to squeeze the excess butter out, but all that did was make turnip spaghetti. I finally managed to mush together two tiny portions, one for David and one for me, but they looked disgustingly unappetizing. David put one bite in his mouth and promptly stuck out his tongue and let it fall out, the way a toddler might reject peas after eating yummy banana (and sort of the way I rejected beets).
I never claimed to be good at math.