It seems parsnips never attract much attention. My fellow South American cooks often tell me when I drag a new root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabaga, turnips etc. into the kitchen “In my country this is what the cows eat”. All I can say is those cows are well fed.
A close cousin to carrots, parsnips are very similar in shape but much sweeter, ivory colored have an even better nutritional value. So what’s up with their minor role in our culinary lives? Perhaps the simple fact that they are a bit more expensive and not as available all year around put them on a back burner for many. They have a deliciously vegetal and sweet flavor unlike any other vegetable so let’s explore.
(Meatloaf crusted in bulgur crust with parsnip chips at a recent dinner party)
Avoid overgrown parsnips as they tend to be quite woodsy in the center and an unpleasant texture that you don’t want in your prepared dish. Naturally starchy they’ll remind you of potatoes in texture and palatability but they are much sweeter. Alex, one of my farmers I consult at the market, leaves parsnips in the soil over the winter months which makes them sweet like candy since the starches in the parsley root convert to natural sugars. In the Fall, this is achieved by cooling parsnips to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. for about 10 – 14 days which makes them sweet and hence more expensive.
(slicing and soaking in water- drying on paper towel
It doesn’t always have to be a spud
I thought parsnip chips were the most novel thing when we had to painstakingly fry chips in olive oil slice by slice in a very fancy 3 Michelin stared restaurant in Europe. These days you can buy them in the supermarket readily available perfectly crisped!
The texture of fried parsnip chips is simple amazing with a meaty soft center and a crispy outside – this you get when you cook’em yourself. Be aware this stuff is addictive so you should keep a few people around to share this recipe otherwise you’ll be the one who finishes them.
Recipe yields a snack for four
3 medium sized parsnips (about 10-inch long)
3 cups vegetable oil such as canola
sea salt to taste
- Peel parsnips.
- Slice parsnips with a slicer such as a Mandolin. Cut the parsnips as thin as possible but obtaining still perfectly round slices.
- Plunge the parsnips into a bowl filled with luke-warm water – this will “wash-out” the natural starch from the vegetable. Leave parsnips for 15 minutes in the water.
- Heat oil in a 1-gallon sized pot.
- Transfer the parsnip slices to a kitchen paper towel lined plate then dry them completely. Change the paper towel with new one if necessary to dry them.
- The oil is hot enough when you drop a drop of water in it and it sizzles - if you have a kitchen thermometer it should show 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Carefully lower the dried parsnip chips into the hot oil - be careful the oil will bubble wildly. I suggest frying the parsnip slices in two to three batches – this will not crowd the frying pot.
- Stir the frying parsnip slices with a slotted spoon – this will prevent the parsnip slices from sticking together and it will brown them evenly.
- The parsnip chips are ready when they have a golden brown color.
- Transfer the chips to a kitchen paper lined plate and sprinkle them right away with sea salt – this will make sure the salt sticks to the chips.
- Fry the rest of the raw parsnip slices.
Chef’s Note: Potato chips need a condiment such as ketchup – parsnips don’t – they're perfect with a crispy outside and soft center.