Poor Rutabaga. Everyone thinks they loathe you, people are stumped by you in the grocery store, no one wants you as a side dish. You're misunderstood. Well, so am I, rutabaga. So am I. Let's work through it together, shall we? I'll point out your best features, and you can point out mine. Well, I suppose you won't have much to offer, so I'll just highlight my talent by putting you to good use.
The Rutabaga: a human invention or happy accident, actually. A hybrid of the turnip and cabbage with many names; in British countries, it is known as a "Swede" whereas in Sweden, it is known as a Cabbage root; In Norway, it's called a kohlrabi, which we know as this also very delicious cruciferous veggie; the Scots call the rutabagas either tumshie or neep, but my favorite is the NE England "snadgie." (take with a grain of sea salt, please - it's from Wikipedia.)
Rutabagas look very much like a large turnip; in supermarkets, they are heavily waxed to protect the cut ends of the root. The rind on the rutabaga is a little thick. Along with the wax, this can make it a little tricky to peel. For this reason, I prefer to peel it with a very sharp paring knife instead of a potato peeler. Peel through the white parts of the rutabaga until you get to the orangey flesh. Rutabagas have a very nice clean earthy aroma. It's very pleasant when it's winter and you've nearly forgotten what really great fresh veggies smell like.
Rutabagas contain very few calories (50 in a one-cup serving), a good deal of vitamin C, and like many cruciferous vegetables, a nice bit of potassium (13% DV) and a whopping 66% of your daily calcium intake - so if you are trying to eat a little healthier in the New Year, you might think about picking one of these up on your next shopping trip.
I am going to present two recipes for rutabagas here - nearly identical save the cooking methods - although there are many ways you could prepare them - soup, gratins, roasting, fries even. Rutabagas make a very nice companion to pork dishes.
First up - a simple method I like to employ for lots of vegetables - potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, what have you. The basic idea is to use a small bit of fat for browning purposes, and a large amount of liquid is used to cook the rutabagas.
Glazed Rutabaga - serves 2
2 tbsp butter
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
Melt half of the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat; if the butter browns slightly, it's all the better (but don't let it burn). Add the rutabagas chunks, and toss everything to coat. Turn the heat to high and add one cup of the chicken stock and cook until it is absorbed, then add the remaining stock and the white wine, and cook until the rutabagas chunks are soft but still present some resistance (about 15-20 minutes); you might want to taste a chunk and see how you like it; it like mine with some of the root veggie goodness still in tact, and it makes glazing easier. The chicken stock should all be absorbed - you might have to add a little more. Add the remaining butter, and the brown sugar, and season liberally with salt and pepper; toss everything to coat and brown the rutabaga slightly. Serve immediately.
Mashed Rutabagas - serves 2
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt & pepper
2 tbsp butter, or to taste
1/2 ounce half & half
freshly grated nutmeg
Place the rutabaga chunks into a steamer basket and sprinkle with salt. Cover and place over a pot of simmering water. Steam for about 25 minutes or until very soft (they take much longer to soften than potatoes or squash). Drain the water from the pot and place back over high heat; add the rutabaga chunks back into the pan and toss for just a few seconds to take off any excess water. Remove from heat. Add the butter and half and half, and mash with a potato masher. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Yum! If the flavor is a little too "rutabaga-ey" for your tastes, you can add equal parts of regular mashed russet potatoes; the rutabagas will give the potatoes a delightfully earthy flavor.
Come on, you know you want to try something new and delicious!