~ Recipe and story by Chef & Food Stylist, Molly Shuster. Photography by me.
Often times, just the thought of wandering the farmer’s markets during the cold winter months is enough to keep people at home. I mean, what can you buy besides potatoes anyway? I actually love this time of year and the season’s flavors. Yes, this post is coming a bit late and some of the produce available in December no longer lines the tables of the green markets. But all sorts of goodies — brussel-sprouts, apples, pears, turnips, parsnips and squash included, are widely available during the winter months and they just happen to be some of my very favorite foods.
For the holidays, I went home to Massachusetts and was eager to cook a feast for my family. My first stop for inspiration and ingredients to create our Christmas dinner was a small local farm in Westport, MA that my mother had introduced me to some time ago. They sell local dairy products, cheese, and cranberries along with their own produce and eggs. I had a veritable Union Square farmer’s market in my backyard!
Turnips, a rather disregarded vegetable, are fantastic. Truly, they deserve more recognition. Most turnips are a cantaloupe-orange-color with a mild, sweet flavor reminiscent of a parsnip. In a small Massachusetts town that borders Rhode Island, an unusual variety of white turnips grows and is a local favorite. Known as Westport turnips, after the place in which they grow, these white gems have the same flavor and texture as their more common namesake. They just lack the sherbet hue. It quickly became clear that Westport turnips would have to find their way to my holiday menu.
This dish, which made the cut for my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, is delicious. Simply layer turnips and sweet potatoes with gruyere cheese, sage and thyme. Then pour in hot cream and bake until bubbly perfection! The natural sweetness from the turnips and sweet-potatoes makes an otherwise traditional preparation both interesting and even more delicious.
Sweet Potato and Turnip Gratin
2 lb turnips (about 1 large turnip or 2 medium turnips)
2 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 or 3 medium sweet potatoes)
6oz. gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon sage, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
salt, pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small pot, heat the butter, cream and garlic over low heat. Using a cheese grate, shred the gruyere cheese and reserve.
Meanwhile, peel and quarter the turnip and the sweet potatoes.
Cut into very thin slices, about 1/8” thick. Set aside.
In a medium-sized roasting pan, layer the prepared ingredients starting with a layer of sweet potatoes followed by a layer of turnips. Sprinkle generously with chopped sage and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and finish with a layer of shredded cheese (make sure you reserve enough cheese for the final topping!). Repeat this process, finishing with a final layer of sweet potatoes sprinkled with the remaining chopped herbs and a generous amount of shredded cheese.
Remove the garlic cloves from the cream and pour the warm liquid over the gratin.
Place in the oven and bake until the potatoes and turnips are cooked through and the gratin is brown and bubbly, about 1 hour.
Let the gratin cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
An ongoing collaboration, please do see more recipes from our series!
~Molly & Jamie At the Green Market~
From Food Stylist Molly:
Flipping through the channels recently, I stopped on the Discovery Channel and watched an incredibly depressing show about the harmful effects of industrialized commercial fishing. After 60 minutes of this program, I vowed never to eat canned tuna again! But all in all, it left you feeling slightly optimistic and made some great suggestions about how to purchase seafood while keeping in mind sustainability. For all you tuna lovers, look for tins with the Certified Sustainable Seafood label (www.msc.org) for tuna that is pole caught. For the rest of your seafood needs, buying things that are caught locally makes a world of difference.
In this spirit, Jamie and I wandered down to the Greenmarket to see what our local fishmonger had on hand. Some beautiful local Sea Bass caught our eye, so we bought them whole and brought them home to fillet. We also picked up some baby carrots and a head of cauliflower to cook along with our fish. It might look like a lot of work, but this is actually an incredibly simple, fast dinner. Once you get everything ready to cook, it comes together in no time!
Feel free to use whatever fresh, local fish you’re able to find. You should be able to cook it just the same, but keep in mind that the cooking time may vary.
1. Make a deep cut just behind gills until you hit bone behind the head of the fish.
2. Run the tip of your knife along the spine, cutting about 1/4 inch deep all the way down to the tail.
3. Starting back at the top of the fillet where the first incision was made, slide your knife under the fillet and work your way across the belly and down to the tail. Make long smooth strokes, using the bones as a guide. You want your knife to graze the bones so you’ll come out with a beautiful, smooth fillet.
4. Continue these long cuts until you have fully made your way under the fillet. Run your knife through the bottom of the tail, fully severing the fillet from the fish. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side.
Refrigerate until ready for use. Bones may be discarded or saved to make fish stock.
Cut one head of cauliflower into florets. Over high heat, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and place in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in a warm place until ready for use.
Wash and scrub two bunches of baby carrots (if you’re using regular carrots: peel, halve and slice the carrots into 2 inch pieces). Heat a saute pan over medium-high. Add a couple glugs of olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots and cook, only turning occasionally, until lightly charred and just tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until ready for use.
Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple glugs of olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (you know the drill). Season the fillets on both sides with salt. Cooking in batches, place the fillets flesh side down and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes per side (however, cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of your fillets).
Dollop some pureed cauliflower on a dinner plate. Place the sea bass over the cauliflower and add a generous serving of sauteed carrots. Eat immediately!
~ Recipe and words by Food Stylist, Molly Shuster. Photography FromMeToYou.
An ongoing collaboration, please do see more recipes from our series!