Turnip Gratin

From time to time, I like to walk through the veggie market and scope out ingredients I haven't played with yet.  This is how I grabbed my first graffiti eggplant, and how I tried the oh-so-cool rambutan.  Recently, I checked out a local market named Clemon's and spotted a turnip.  It's not that I had a problem with turnips before, I just hadn't tried them.

So, as trends in human nature may predict, I grabbed one to experiment with.  Turnip gratin stemmed from this curiosity.  I am a huge fan of Au Gratin Potatoes - I grew up on the freeze dried potatoes with a powdered cheese sauce, and making them fresh showed me what they could really be.  The discovery of a turnip recipe topped with a cheese sauce seemed like an most delightful way to try out a turnip.  It is a known fact by any of my lactose-tolerant brethren that cheese makes everything great.


The problem was, I had only grabbed 1 turnip.  So, the recipe was put on hold for a few days, until I made my way back to the grocery to grab a few more.

The first step was to peel and slice the turnips.  I tried a bit of raw turnip and agh!  Too bitter for my taste.  My impression?  Maybe chopped up into teeny bits it could be tolerable in a salad. I'll give a solid maybe on that.


I made a simple cream sauce with heavy cream and butter, and added in fresh thyme leaves, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.  The original recipe called for a bundle of herbs to be removed later, however I decided to leave everything in so I broke it up.  I couldn't resist adding some crushed red pepper and some marsala cooking wine.  Then, I heated it to a simmer, then removed from the heat to sit for about 15 minutes.


I busted out a mandolin slicer for this endeavor -  I wanted thin slices and using a knife would have taken an eternity.  This was also my first time using one, and man, that thing is a hero.  After slicing the potatoes thin for Au Gratin Potatoes, I was excited to try a faster and more effective method.  The mandolin slicer worked great -- it was quick and made the slices as thin as a potato chip.  For sure I will be using this tool more frequently.  I layered some slices in the bottom of the baking casserole to start.


The cheese was sprinkled over the turnips, followed by some little pats of butter and the cream sauce over the top. The sauce had reduced and thickened quite significantly, so I only used a small amount between the layers.


Then, I baked the turnips for right around 40 minutes, until the turnips were softened and the cheese had browned a bit on the top.


The flavor of a cooked turnip to a raw one is significantly better!  The bitterness was slightly present - more like a hint. Now I learned later that the least bitter turnips are the ones that are totally white - the more purple the more the bitterness has set in.  I also learned that smaller ones are best.  So for next time, I would choose more selectively (and maybe give some raw ones a chance again).  I think layering in some potatoes would also be well, and putting in some chunks of sweet pepper.  I loved the cheddar cheese, though; it is my Au gratin standard so cheddar just fits my expectations in flavor.  I would make this again, as it made for a great change from the flavor of your basic side dish.  I gotta tell ya, I let my dad in on this and he absolutely loved everything about it.  He's a pepper fan, so I think dishes with stronger flavors really hit the spot.  So for those who love to fluctuate the dinner flavors, this may be a jackpot.

Turnip Gratin Recipe


Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons marsala wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup butter, plus extra for baking dish
2 pounds turnips, peeled and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add the heavy cream, marsala wine, garlic, thyme leaves, cayenne, and salt. Heat the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, until thickened. Spray the casserole with nonstick cooking spray and layer in 1/3 of the sliced turnips. Sprinkle 1/3 of the grated cheese over the turnips and add small slices of the butter. Pour 1/3 of the cream over the top, then repeat the layers two more times until all the ingredients are used up. Cover with foil and bake 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, until cheese is browned on top and turnips are softened.

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