Turnips: not love at first site, but love

My love of turnips was not a passionate love at first bite kind of love. On the contrary, my first memories of turnips have a bitter, mushy, generic-vegetabley taste surrounding them. I had them in stews, mostly cooked to oblivion. At some point, I had my first pickled turnips, and (since I love anything pickled) I loved them! The bitterness was not there, but they did have a tang that was more than just the brine they had been sitting in. I was intrigued.

When our farm share gave us two weeks of easter egg looking, purple and white turnips, I took to the internet to see what other cooks are doing with turnips. There was a lot of glaze-braise-mashed kind of stuff going on, but nothing that really drew me in. Then I spotted a Japanese recipe, simply “turnips with miso.” I jump at the chance to cook with miso, as I love the salty, funky, sweet flavor it brings, and the recipe could not have been more simple.

I sliced the turnips, as they were a bit too large, leaving the skin on. I brought some water to a boil, threw in some salt and a splash of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine). I boiled the turnips maybe 5 minutes total, checking often to get that perfect “crisp tender” state. In the mean time, I made a compound butter using equal parts butter and white miso (I could have eaten this with a spoon!). I read somewhere that sugar helps to temper the bitterness of turnips, so I added some honey to the compound butter and mixed it in (3 tblspn butter, 3 tblspn miso, 1 tblspn honey).

After draining the turnips very well, I tossed them with the butter, glazing them beautifully. I tasted one, very curious at this point, and couldn’t stop. I basically ate my share out of the pan before we even sat down to dinner! The compound butter really would be good on anything, but this was a great combo. Cooking the turnips just a few minutes is also key. There was no bitterness, a delightful crunch, and juicy sweetness. Reheated the next day for lunch, the turnips did start to get some bitterness, so now I am convinced that it has to do with cooking them too long, but I haven’t googled this – anyone know?

Miso Turnips
– 3 tablespoons white miso
– 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 tablespoon (or less) honey
– 3 lbs small turnips (and greens if you have them!)
– boiling, salted water
– 2 tablespoons mirin

Slice turnips, if large and chop greens. Boil turnips a few minutes, testing done-ness with a fork. Add greens during the last couple minutes if you have them. Drain immediately when turnips are crisp tender.

Meanwhile, mash butter, miso and honey in a bowl to blend. Toss the well drained turnips and greens with the butter mixture to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately – best hot and on the first day!

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