Root vegetables. I wish I had a good story about them. But I don’t. All have is a deep love and appetite for the dirt, dwelling bulbs. Roasted, mashed, fried or steamed, it doesn’t matter. My infatuation for roots is broad. Maybe it’s because I’m from the midwest(ish) where roots are regular fare, and/or because I’m Irish, where roots were all anyone could afford. But most likely it is due to those fancy root chips they sell at the grocery store. I. Just. Can’t. Stop!
Ok, I lied, maybe I do have a story. As I said, I’m Irish (well, half Irish and half Dutch) and my mom’s side of the family, I would say, is pretty proud that they are Irish (not to say my dad’s side isn’t proud to be Dutch). Every holiday celebration, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas, my great grandma Mildred Murphy, and later my aunt Kay after my great grandma passed on, would bring a dish of mashed rutabagas [or as my family says, although I’m not certain why, “rutabeggars”]. It was kind of just a thing that you had to do every holiday because you were Irish. It was usually a small dish and usually no one ate them, or at least not much of them. I was pretty young and usually the rutabagas were passed right by me. But this particular holiday celebration I decided I want to try the “rutabeggars”. Even at a young age, I liked to eat and I didn’t want something that looked an awful lot like cheesy, mashed potatoes to get passed over my head. So I asked to try them. I quite vividly remember family members asking me if I was sure I wanted to try them, as if they were snails or liver and onions or something. Of course I wanted to try them! It would be a predictable and entertaining outcome of this story if when I tasted these “rutabeggars” I hated them so much that I had a vile and over-the-top reaction, spitting rutabaga mash everywhere. But the truth is, I loved them. I remember eating a lot of them. Even more than I ate of my old favorite, mashed potatoes (OMG, so passé!).
Rutabagas are now one of my favorite foods, if not my favorite. They are buttery and just enough starchy to give you that comforting feeling, but not enough starchy to make you feel like a sack of potatoes after you eat them (pun intended). I am a rutabaga evangelist. I always bring them to special occasions and I am the new, designated rutabaga preparer in my family. I even bring them to holidays on my dutch side of the family! And people love them. They are weird looking and no one knows what to do with them or how to prepare them, so a lot of people have never made them. Well, you’re in luck, because I’m ready to share with you my Irish wisdom.
First, here is a little tutorial on how to prep and cut a rutabaga.
That big purplish brown looking root, that’s a rutabaga. They can sometimes be found by the potatoes or the squash at the grocery store and they are usually covered in thick wax to preserve their freshness.
Cutting from the top of the rutabaga to the bottom, run your knife along the side, cutting of the skin and staying with the shape of the root. Work your way around until all the skin is removed. (Use a good, sturdy knife. You will have a hard time with a cheap, flimsy or serrated knife)
That’s it! Now they are ready to boil but you can also roast them in the oven with rosemary and olive oil. So good.
Hey! Bring a little Irish to your holiday celebrations this year. Maybe you’ll start a new tradition.
Mashed Rutabagas (Murphy Style)
1 large or 2 small rutabagas, peeled and diced into 1/2″-3/4″ cubes
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks (optional, I’ve done without it, but this is the Murphy way)
1-2 Tbsp or butter (depending on your taste)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Put your diced rutabagas and potato into a large pot of cold water with a large pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil.
2. Remove cover and turn heat down to a simmer. Allow to cook for 18 minutes or until the rutabagas are tender. Drain the water.
3. Place the rutabagas back in the pan and mash with a potato masher. Add butter, salt and a generous amount of pepper. Whip with an electric mixer. (A food processor or immersion blender works well too.)
4. Put the mashed rutabagas in a casserole dish and bake for 1 hour. Eat and share with your friends and family.