Parsnip Praise

Parsnips in all their glory with orange juice, butter, cumin and mint.

Parsnips are sweet, starchy and kind of look like albino carrots gone wild.

They’ve been treasured for eons, too. Did you know that the English made parsnip wine in the nineteenth century? That the Irish liked to brew parsnip beer? And that even now, Italian farmers who raise pigs for melt-in-your-mouth Parma prosciutto often feed their animals parsnips to add natural sweetness to their meat?

You’ll learn all that and more in Diane Morgan’s new cookbook, “Roots” (Chronicle Books). The book, of which I received a review copy, contains more than 225 recipes for all manner of root vegetables, everything form arrowhead to burdock to crosne to turmeric to yuca. Morgan, an Oregon culinary instructor and restaurant consultant, provides a wealth of information on each root vegetable, including its nutritional value, varieties, and lore and history. The recipes span the familiar (“Twice-Baked Gruyere Potatoes with Lots of Green Onions”) to the unusual (“Lotus Root Upside-Down Cake”).

“Orange-Braised Parsnips with Cumin and Mint” is a riff on glazed carrots, only with thick matchsticks of parsnips flavored with orange juice, white wine vinegar, cumin, fresh mint and sugar that you caramelize before using for added depth.

As the parsnips cook in a frying pan, the juice, butter and sugar combine and reduce into a syrup. The parsnips end up very glossy looking, with their natural nuttiness heightened with earthy spices.

Dig in, and you’ll be singing the praises of parsnips loud and clear.

Orange-Braised Parsnips with Cumin and Mint

(Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish)

1 1/2 pounds parsnips

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh mint

Trim and peel parsnips. Cut them into sticks about 2 inches long by 1/2-inch wide and 1/2-inch thick.

In a 10-inch heavy frying pan, heat sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Cook the sugar, lifting and tilting the pan as needed so the sugar melts evenly and turns a golden brown. Immediately add the butter and stir constantly until the sugar and butter are evenly combined. Add parsnips and cook, stirring constantly, until evenly coated, about 2 minutes.

Add orange juice, stock, vinegar, salt, cumin, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until parsnips are fork-tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the lid and stir occasionally until liquid is reduced and parsnips are glazed and caramelized, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the mint and serve immediately.

From “Roots” by Diane Morgan

More Parsnip Deliciousness: Parsnip Buttermilk Pie

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