Monday 12 March 2012

Another Family Favorite: Mashed Rutabagas

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My family's Thanksgiving celebrations are different every year.  Some years it's a relatively small group, just my immediate family, a few close friends, and whoever else can make it, and some years we have 35 people, half of whom aren't technically family, and we have to rent tables and silverware and cook three separate turkeys three different ways.  Sometimes we have traditional roast turkey, or Moroccan spiced turkey, or deep-fried turkey – one year we even had turkey tacos, which went over like a lead balloon with the younger generation.

No matter where we are, though, or how many of us gather, or what we decide to do with the bird, there are always a few dishes that are absolute must-haves.  Pumpkin pie is the most important, of course, followed closely by some kind of crisp.  We always have turkey of some sort, and gravy, and a big salad.  And we're likely to have mashed potatoes, but much more important (an absolute must, in my opinion) are the roods.

What are roods, you ask?  Well, it's not really a real word, to be fair – 'roods' is what my family calls mashed rutabagas (also known as swedes), which are a root vegetable sort of like a turnip, but sweeter.  According to my mother (and her mother, and her mother), the best roods always come from Washington state, so if you ever have a slightly bitter rutabaga, blame your grocer and his poor sourcing.  Roods should be a beautiful sunset color when cooked, and should taste light, a bit sweet, and fresh, a bit like a cross between a parsnip , a turnip, and a carrot.

For some people this may be blasphemy, but at Thanksgiving I often skip over the mashed potatoes and go straight for the roods.  I like them better!  They're lighter, and more flavorful, and plus they're on the menu much less often than potatoes, which are kind of 'common as pig tracks' (as my mother would say).  I usually only get them at Thanksgiving – I'd never even considered cooking them myself until recently, when they started appearing in our weekly veg box!

The bf didn't even know what that funny-looking veg was when we first got it, much less how to cook it, but when I told him it was a rutabaga, and reminded him of the family specialty, he got nearly as excited as I did (okay, nowhere near, but he was excited, I think).  And even though I'd only ever followed instructions where roods were concerned, and never made them start to finish, I had a go. Turns out, roods are easy!  And the result was delicious.  Not as sweet as Washington state roods, obviously, but not a bad second-best, given that we're so far away.  In all, a roaring success, and something I'll be making much more often, instead of wallowing in peachy-vegetable dreams all year, wishing for fall. 

Mashed Rutabagas

Peel your rutabaga(s), as many as you need for the number of portions required (I used one, because it was huge and there are only two of us, but for Thanksgiving we usually have at least 10 normal-sized roods) and chop them into medium sized pieces.

In a large pot, cover the roods with lightly salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook at a simmer, uncovered, until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain roods and put them back into the pot over very low heat.  Mash the rutabagas with a large knob of salted butter, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a large grind of fresh black pepper.  Taste and add more butter/salt/pepper as needed.  (Note: I'm pretty sure we don't put milk or cream into our roods, although I'm not positive.  I personally like them better than mashed potatoes because they're not as gluey or as heavy, so I don't use cream or milk when I make them myself.)


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