As a culinary instructor, I hear this again and again, “I have never really liked turnip or rutabaga”. My goal is to change that comment – I am going to root for rutabaga. Actually, the term turnip and rutabaga are often used simultaneously. In this post, I will focus on the lowly rutabaga.
First, I will explore what a rutabaga actually is, then explain how to properly cut a rutabaga, and then share a recipe with you on how to prepare a delicious braised rutabaga side dish that will change anyone’s mind when it comes to eating rutabaga. My grandchildren love this recipe!
Rutabaga is certainly an underrated root vegetable and one of my favourite, actually. It is a root vegetable that is, surprisingly, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. It is sometimes called a turnip, or a Swede, or even a ‘neep’. Whatever it is called, it is worthwhile knowing how to prepare it properly.
There is no waste when it comes to using a rutabaga. The leafy tops of the rutabaga are edible, and I remember harvesting a few of the younger leaves of the plant when I was gathering produce for dinner from my Dad’s large garden. The young leaves are zesty in taste if used raw in a salad mix, however, try sautéing them. They are delicious and all that is needed is a bit of butter, minced garlic, salt and pepper for a change in your vegetable repertoire. They are quite mild in taste – much like spinach.
Nutritionally speaking, the edible greens are an excellent source high in vitamins K, A and C, along with manganese and fibre. The root of the rutabaga provides Vitamin A, C, B-12, B-6, D, Iron and Magnesium. The underrated Rutabaga is not so lowly after all, is it?
So, let’s get to the peeling and eating part. One of the first steps is peeling the rutabaga. This is often where the problem lies. When I teach my vegetable classes (Veggin’ It – A Fresh Approach), students are surprised when I teach them how to properly peel and cut a rutabaga. They are even more surprised when I had them taste it raw, and then again after it was cooked. Each and every time, I had them hooked!
Plainly speaking, if a rutabaga is cut improperly, it can taste quite bitter – and that, unfortunately, is the way many folks have had rutabaga and it has been given a bad rap, so to speak. To be honest, the only way I had experienced this vegetable as a child was a dish prepared with a combination of mashed carrot and rutabaga. My sisters were not particularly fond of that dish.
The following is an excerpt from LIVESTRONG.COM – “The Limitless Potential of You”:
HOW TO PEEL A RUTABAGA
Once only popular in New England, the Midwest and Scandinavia, the humble rutabaga is making a name for itself as more people become nutrition-conscious and willing to explore “new” vegetables.
Rich in beta-carotene and low in calories, the rutabaga is a cross between a turnip and a wild cabbage. Hiding beneath its tough, ugly skin is a sweet-flavoured root vegetable that is easy to grow, store and prepare. Whether eaten raw or cooked, once you try a rutabaga you’ll become a lifelong fan.
- Wash the rutabaga under cold running water, taking care to remove any loose soil that may be embedded in the rough skin.
- Remove a thin slice from both the top and the bottom of the rutabaga with a paring knife.
- Slice the vegetable in half; this will make it easier to handle.
- Peel away the thick skin, using a paring knife to cut away 2-inch slices at a time. Once the outer peel is removed, the tender, light-coloured inside of the rutabaga will be visible.
- Cut out any spots that are tougher than the areas around them; you will be able to feel the tough spots with the paring knife as you peel. These tough areas aren’t “bad” but will be more bitter than the rest of the vegetable.
That last point is quite important: Most of the instructions or videos that I have viewed show the demonstrator taking a peeler and slicing off the thin waxy layer of the rutabaga only, and this is incorrect. There is still quite a tough layer under the waxy layer that can cause the vegetable to have a much stronger taste.
This layer becomes quite evident if you slice the top and bottom of the rutabaga and place it flat on a cutting board. If you look at the layers, you can see a definite delineation between the tougher layer and the tender interior layer. This tough layer must be removed – you are then left with an often yellower layer of tender sweet rutabaga that is really quite wonderful raw or cooked.
Below is a photo of a turnip with the top sliced off – you can clearly see the differentiation between the layers. I have always erred on the side of frugality when slicing these in the past, but now I know that slicing this thick layer under the waxy coating is the correct procedure – thank you to my culinary instructors!
After you get the hang of cutting this vegetable the correct way, you can try a recipe that is sure to please everyone who tries it. This recipe for HONEY GLAZED RUTABAGA OR WHITE TURNIP is really quite wonderful! Tender, mild and beautifully glazed with a bit of honey, it is sure to become one of your family favourites.
CHEF TALK: We have successfully changed the mind of turnip haters with this dish. The first trick is knowing how to properly peel and cut a turnip. The second tip is reducing the cooking liquid until it coats the turnip in a syrupy glaze. You are in essence braising the vegetable. Use 1/2 of a large turnip or one small. Here is a great way to practice your knife skills. The paysanne cut is used in this vegetable side dish (they remind me of Scrabble pieces, don’t they?) Refer to Notes at the end of this post to see more information.
HONEY GLAZED RUTABAGA
CHEF TALK: A paysanne cut, or peasant cut, is described as a 1/2 X 1/2 inch baton that is cut across the baton to approximately 1/8” to 1/4” thick slices. It is often used for soup garnishes or in this case, as an attractive vegetable side dish. Click here for a video on how to cut a paysanne cut.
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 lb. rutabaga, cut into 1-inch paysanne dice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup chicken stock
Garnish: 2 teaspoons chives, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter.
- Add the rutabaga and turn to coat in the butter.
- Add salt, chicken stock and honey.
- Cook, covered over medium heat until the rutabaga is cooked through thoroughly.
- Remove the cover and continue cooking until the liquid is evaporated and the rutabaga is nicely coated with the syrupy glaze.
- Garnish with chives. Serve hot.
Here is your visual step-by-step in photographs How to Do Paysanne Cuts:
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Basic Tools: The Simple Spatula
Other Urbnspice Vegetable Sides:
Butternut Squash – How to cut and roast
Lemon Potatoes – one of the best potato dishes ever!
Vichy Carrots – another braised vegetable dish
Give this recipe for Honey Glazed Rutabaga a try. You can then join me in the crusade to root for rutabaga!
Happy Cooking, everyone!
The Urbnspice Chef
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Thank you for explaining how to cook this vegetable so that it is nice to eat 🙂 Rutabaga aka swedes is a wonderful vegetable for the keto diet.
Denise Pare-Watson says
Thank you for your comment, Matt. Rutabaga is such an underrated vegetable – it is delicious! I am so glad that you enjoyed learning how to cook it properly. It makes all the difference. Cheers!