Plain and Not So Plain Parsnips

You know, there is nothing wrong with plain old mashed-up parsnips, providing you are a parsnip partisan which not everyone is. I am, but I particularly like parsnip stew, so first parsnips out of the ground in spring go into a favorite version of stew which I make as if it were going to be chowder with parsnips in place of fish. That makes supper.

I can detect shudders of horror out there at the prospect of nothing for supper but parsnip stew. Perhaps you’d prefer roasted parsnips, which are simply wonderful all by themselves roasted in olive oil, or how about duck fat? Or glazed with maple syrup? Or roasted alongside carrots, potatoes, and turnips? All good.

Then there is the puree and mix approach. Cook parsnips and mash or puree them with cooked potatoes, or carrots, or turnips, etc., etc. That might make parsnips acceptable even to the parsnip dubious. You can add garlic, too, or horseradish.

A quick perusal of parsnips on the web show that people who are following Paleo diets prefer parsnips: apparently mashed potatoes are not on the Paleo-approved list of vegetables. I own I don’t quite get the Paleo diet except I know that it favors meats, roots, and no grains or dairy. Which means that my next suggestion to blend goat cheese with your mashed-up parsnips instead of yummy cream and butter, won’t pass the Paleo program.

That leaves an awful lot of the rest of us to use goat cheese, milk, butter, cream when we mash our parsnips, a perfectly happy situation. About one tablespoon of goat cheese per parsnip works well. You could just eat your dairy-enhanced parsnips straight off your plate with fork or spoon, and enjoy them that way. Or you could use them in a casserole-like dish, perhaps, for example, shepherd’s pie, where you spread parsnips alone or combined with potatoes over cooked meat and gravy (and vegetables, if you wish) and bake everything together. Delicious.

And then there is that other dodge, the parsnip-enhanced potato cake: mix the two mashed vegetables into a fairly stiff mixture, form into flat cakes to fry on a pan until golden and crisp on both sides.

Ah, good old spring-dug parsnips. Nothing like them.

Not So Plain Parsnips
  • 1 parsnip per person
  • Water or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soft goat cheese per parsnip
  • Half-and-half or cream, optional
  • Chives, sipped, to taste, optional
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Peel parsnips and cut into chunks.
  2. Simmer in barely enough water or chicken broth to cover the parsnips.
  3. When fork tender, drain parsnips and reserve cooking liquid.
  4. Mash parsnips, adding the goat cheese.
  5. Thin the mashed vegetable with cooking water or cream to your preferred texture.
  6. Stir in snipped chives and salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings to taste .
  7. Serve.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.