little house cookbook, vegetables

Fried Parsnips

I have always been wary of parsnips.

When I was little, our dinner vegetables tended toward the traditional: peas, green beans, corn, carrots, salad. For a long time I didn’t know what parsnips were. Based on the name I thought they were something like turnips, which I knew all about from reading the Molly McIntire series of American Girl books. Remember those? In the first book, Molly refuses to eat her plate of mashed turnips. They’re pale, mushy, and definitely gross. But the housekeeper tells Molly she can’t leave the table until she’s eaten her entire dinner, and by the time Mrs. McIntire returns from her WWII factory job (late at night, it’s implied), Molly still hasn’t left the table. I remember this chapter vividly: how cold and unappetizing the turnips looked by then. I assumed that parsnips, with their similar name, must be the same.

(Never mind that Mrs. McIntire proceeds to reheat the turnips with brown sugar, making them surprisingly delicious.)

But this blog is all about adventure, so last week I decided to end my accidental life-long boycott of parsnips.

To cook parsnips prairie-style, you trim the ends and boil the parsnips until a fork can pierce them easily. Once they’re cool, you shave off the skin with a table knife. It’s a tricky maneuver that can make you extremely grateful for the invention of vegetable peelers. Once peeled, you slice the parsnips into thin strips, dredge the strips in flour, and fry them up in a few tablespoons of butter.

The verdict? Well, parsnips taste kind of….bland. Like carrots that have lost their color and flavor. Of course, frying them in butter adds a rich dimension to the taste, but I’m not sure I’d like them cooked in another way. Also, I’m growing tired of this prairie method of frying all vegetables in some kind of fat.

But perhaps the prairie method is the problem. Anyone have suggestions for making parsnips tasty? Otherwise I’m likely to keep my misconception of them as the equivalent of Molly McIntire’s turnips.

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