I bought organic parsnips on a whim at the farmer’s market two weekends ago without any clue what to make of them. The few times I was brave enough to buy parsnips before were always at the supermarket, and the root vegetables were consequently woody and unappealing. So once the rest of the farmer’s market produce had been eaten up, those parsnips were still reproaching me in the drawer, looking like the pallid victims of Bunnicula.
I decided to start my re-introduction to parsnips by removing the textural question entirely and reducing them to a silky ivory puree. Halfway between a mash and a sauce, this recipe paired the subtle sweetness of the starring vegetable with fragrant garlic, earthy thyme, salty parmesan, and the velvety texture of cream. It paired nicely with thick-cut, pistachio-crusted pork chops and green beans sauteed with sticks of zucchini, and was so delicious that I was seriously tempted to lick my plate.
The next day, I thinned the last cup or so of puree with a little chicken stock and reheated it on the stovetop in soup form. I ate a bowlful simply garnished with cracked pepper and a handful of hot-smoked salmon (made in my newly christened stovetop smoker!), and found it so sublime that I immediately gave up any notion of sharing some with my mom and hogged it all myself.
Silky Parsnip Puree
1 lb parsnips (3-4 pieces), peeled and chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 C heavy cream
1 C milk
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 stick butter, room temperature (I omitted this, as it was already plenty creamy)
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
Place peeled and chopped parsnips in a pot of boiling salted water, along with the garlic cloves. Turn down to a simmer, and cook until parsnips and garlic have softened to fork-tender. Drain and set aside, reserving some of the liquid. In a separate saucepan, bring heavy cream, milk, and thyme to a boil and cook to thicken slightly. Meanwhile, place parsnips and garlic in a food processor with a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid and the butter, if using. As the mixture processes, strain the heavy cream and thyme reduction. Slowly add to the parsnip puree until fully incorporated (or until the puree has achieved your desired thickness). Add the Parmesan cheese, and pulse to mix. Salt & pepper to taste. You can strain this for an even smoother texture, but I found it to be unnecessary.
Source: Slightly adapted from Lynfred Winery.