Eating Local: Parsnip and Potato Something-or-Other
2 May 2006

Seattle has been gorgeous this spring... lots of sunny days with just intermittent spurts of rain to keep things from getting too dry. You'd think, with this weather, the markets would be teaming with local produce. But, unfortunately, I guess it's too early for that. I went to two local organic food markets today... the Madison Market co-op and Rainbow, in search of something local to cook... trying to do my part for Eat Local month. Apparently, this is going to be harder than I thought. I guess if it were easy, everyone would do it and it wouldn't need a specially designated "month." Anyway, I walked away from both stores with a few finds... apples are still plentiful, local and all organic. I got a few Pink Ladies, along with some local (I think... the signage wasn't very good) rhubarb, organic local parsnips, local cage-free eggs and some "northwest" dairy organic milk from the co-op. The rhubarb and apples should be simple... I'll make some sort of pie or tart or crumble or something. The parsnips, on the other hand, are a challenge for me. I don't like parsnips. Or, at least, I never have before. So, finding a recipe that I thought I would like seemed tricky.

potatoes and parsnips
After some poking around, I decided to make a variation of the Food & Wine Crispy Potato-Parsnip Cake. I pictured hashbrowns meets scalloped potatoes, which sounded good... subconsciously blocking out the entire notion of the parsnip. These would be crisp and salty and almost like eating french fries! Sadly, despite greater than called for amounts of baking and broiling, I couldn't get this dish to get crisp. Blackened? Sure. But somehow blackened and soggy. Surprisingly tasty, but quite soggy. I did manage to salvage one somewhat less moist corner which I cleverly disguised with some greens snipped fresh from the garden (can't get more local than that!) and a bit of blue cheese and balsamic. But don't let the photos fool you... this was not a success.
potatoes and parsnips
Not one to let a vegetable get the better of me, I did the only natural thing... I took a fork to it, and taking out a bit of frustrated disappointment, I turned it into mashed browned parsnips and potatoes. The parsnip and blue cheese had worked amazingly well together, so I mixed in some blue cheese to the mash up as well. I did try one more time to satisfy my crispy craving... I took the mash and tried to fry it up like I would a latke. But, again, no joy. Just more black mush. After a couple attempts, I decided to stick to the mash-up approach, which would go great with most meats as a side. I won't bother with the recipe this... but a few tips if you follow the Food & Wine recipe:
  • Make sure you get the potatoes and parsnips really thin. I'd use a mandolin if I had one, or you could try shredding instead of slicing, and get crisper results.
  • I used small, yellow new potatoes. It might be better to use ones that are a bit firmer.
  • Sage adds a nice flavor, if you want to use something other than rosemary.
  • Blue cheese, as I mentioned before, works really well with the flavors.

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