On a Sunday afternoon a few summers ago, I came home from the farmers market with a bag full of cute little white turnips and thought, “It’s been years since I’ve had turnips! Why haven’t I tried them again sooner?”
That night, I cooked the turnips for dinner, cubing them and boiling them in water. When they were just soft enough to be pierced by a knife, I drained them and began to mash them, just like I remember my mum doing when I was really young. Strangely, my turnips were very hard to mash – they had a stringy texture and became more watery the more I mashed them. Not wanting to waste them, I drained the turnips of a bit of their water and doctored them up with a bit of salt, pepper, and margarine. It made no difference, though – they tasted terrible.
I mentioned this to my mum a few days later, confused about a taste and texture totally different from what I’d been expecting. She told me what I’d eaten wasn’t what I thought it was. It turns out, as some of you may already know, that there is a big difference between the white turnips with the purple tops (the kind I’d bought) and what’s known as a rutabaga/Swedish turnip/yellow turnip/turnip/neep. (“Neep” is a Latin-derrived term my ancestors, the Scots, use to refer to both white and yellow turnips.)
Since this discovery, I’ve steered clear of the white turnips while rutabagas have taken up quite a cozy place in my culinary bag o’ tricks. And after a hearty endorsement from my mum, rutabaga fries have replaced sweet potato fries and French fries on my dinner plate on several occasions. I made mine using the same seasonings I usually like to put on homemade potato fries.
Even though rutabaga fries don’t crisp up like potato fries do (they’re really a lot more like sweet potato fries), I really hope you give this recipe a try – it’s fun to see how the people you serve them to have no idea they aren’t potato fries until they bite into one. And like it.
1 large rutabaga (1 lb.), peeled and cut into French fry-sized sticks
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
2 tsp onion granules
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp rice flour, potato starch, or fine cornmeal (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Place the peeled and sliced rutabaga in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, tossing everything together until the fries are thoroughly coated with the seasonings and olive oil.
3. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread the fries out in a single layer and place the sheet in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the fries have turned a golden colour with browned edges. Flip the fries once halfway through cooking with a spatula or fork.
4. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with whatever dipping sauces you like. (Ketchup goes surprisingly well with these fries.)
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.