R5 What's in Season: Rutabaga Rooter

Rutabaga Rooter

Whether roasted, mashed, or flavoring ice cream, this underappreciated root veggie is versatile and subtly sweet. 

Pity the poor rutabaga: regrettably named, the lowly offspring of a cabbage and a turnip, historically thought unfit for human consumption in Europe, then over-consumed during World War II food shortages to the point of revulsion. Well, sad, bulbous root, it’s time to throw off the mantle of oppression and join your cold-weather brethren in soups, braises, and gratins. Or, heck, just go for it and run naked in salads. You may not be beautiful, but you will be loved. 

And we can all do our part. Beneath the smooth, yellow-lavender skin lies flesh of delicate sweetness that’s heightened with roasting, adds depth to mashed potatoes, and brightens beef stews. And soup and sauté alert: Rutabagas’ greens deserve love as well. Stored in plastic and refrigerated, rutabagas can last about a month, so make room among your roots and tubers.

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At Hudson at Haymount House, (25 Studio Hill Rd, Briarcliff Manor 914-502-0080; haymounthouseny.com), Chef Scott Riesenberger affords them plenty of space—and often in unexpected places, like tart pans and dessert bowls. “I like to expose people to different ways of viewing flavors,” he says. Example: “The rutabaga has a natural sweetness that lends itself to ice cream. It’s esoteric, but still approachable.” So instead of traditional pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, expect vanilla crème brûlée with rutabaga ice cream. Or how about a brunch of roasted rutabaga tart imbued with orange peel, shallots, and goat cheese? Or perhaps a honey- and cumin-scented caramelized rutabaga salad with apple or pear. “People may be hesitant at first,” he acknowledges, but afterwards, “they’re blown away; they get to explore something.”

A rutabaga adventure? Alert those Europeans: The root has morphed from revulsion to revelation.

Rutabaga and Braeburn Apple Soup                                                                                                            
Courtesy of Scott Riesenberger, Hudson at Haymount House 
(Serves 6-8)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter                                                                                                                                          
2 Tbsp olive oil                                                                                                                                             
1 medium Spanish  
  onion, sliced thin                                                                                                                                  
4 large rutabagas, peeled and
  chopped in medium pieces                                                                                                                                          
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, 
  peeled, medium dice                                                                          
4 Braeburn apples, peeled and
  cored, (sliced medium McIntosh                        
  apples can be substituted)                                                                
2 qts chicken or vegetable stock                                                                                                                                     
salt and white pepper, to taste                                                                                                                                        
crème fraîche, yogurt, or
  whipped cream, for garnish

Combine butter, olive oil, and onions in heavy-bottomed saucepot over low heat. Cook until onions are softened but not browned. Raise heat, add rutabagas, potatoes, apples, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is tender. Purée mixture in blender, in batches to avoid splattering hot liquid, until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with dollop of crème fraîche, yogurt, or whipped cream.          

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