It may look simply like a white carrot lurking in produce bin but the parsnip offers a sweeter flavor with the same versatility as its taproot cousin. With cooler weather approaching, the time for parsnips to reach their maximum potential also arrives.
Late fall is prime harvesting time for parsnips since the taproot reaches its peak after the first frost. Colder temperature climates produce better parsnips since colder weather triggers the cold sweetening in the taproot. This means the vegetable accumulates sugar to prevent from freezing in the ground, thus making it have an abundance of sweetness.
The parsnip also provides more vitamins than carrots, being rich in potassium and high in fiber.
Preparing and Cooking Parsnips
When preparing, cores of large parsnips should be removed to prevent strong and bitter flavors. Smaller specimens the core can remain in tact. Parsnips can be used in place of or in addition to the carrot in many dishes, especially stews and soups.
Their best method for cooking is to roast in the oven. By roasting the parsnip in the dry oven heat, it intensifies the the sweet and nutty flavor of the vegetable.
Start with about two pounds of parsnips, coat in two tablespoons of oil, olive oil is a good choice. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet or half sheet pan. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes. Using tongs, flip the parsnips over and roast for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from pan, sprinkle with parsley, salt to taste and serve. Parsley makes an excellent accompaniment because of its close botanical relationship to parsnips.
Butter Sauteed Parsnips
Sauteing parsnips in butter is another method. Par cook two pounds of chopped parsnips for 15-20 minutes in boiling water. Once tender, drain and completely dry the parsnips. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the dried parsnips and saute until light brown. This method caramelizes their natural sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For a little switch on parsnips as dinner side dish, try adding them to breakfast.
Alton Brown’s Parsnip Muffins
- 1-ounce sliced almonds
- Nonstick spray
- 8 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 whole eggs
- 3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 8 ounces sugar
- 10 ounces grated parsnips
Place the almonds in a single layer in a pie pan and place in oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the nuts until lightly toasted, approximately 20 minutes while the oven heats. Meanwhile, spray a standard 12-cup muffin tin with the nonstick spray and set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process for 5 seconds.
Whisk the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture and parsnips, and fold with a spatula until all of the flour is moistened, there will be some lumps. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups using a level 2 1/2-ounce disher or 1/3 cup measure. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the toasted almonds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffins reach an internal temperature of 210 degrees F and are golden brown, rotating halfway through baking. If needed, use a small knife or offset spatula to loosen the muffins and immediately remove them from the tin to a cooling rack, and cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm. Store completely cooled muffins in an airtight container for up to 3 days.