A few months ago we had two good friends over for dinner and they brought some produce to share. Fruit, sturdy greens, and a bag of turnips. I was stumped looking at the white and purple globes. “What do you normally do with them?,” I asked. I mean, given enough time, cream, and bacon I know what to do with a turnip. But in the short period of time before the other parts of dinner would be ready, I was at a loss. “Well, we slice them and pan fry them in butter,” was the advice I got.
At this point you might have realized this is going to be one of those recipes that is barely a recipe at all, and which you probably could have figured out yourself. It’s more a list of ingredients – turnips, butter, poppyseeds – and a suggested cooking method – pan fry. But it was also too good not to share. The sweet and lightly nutty butter with the sharp and spicy turnips and the little pops when a poppy seed bursts under your teeth. I needed to put it up here because I worried you might not know about it.
Who would have thought that turnips and butter are, in fact, a perfect pairing, especially when crunchy poppy seeds are added? Maybe you knew this already in which case my amazement is probably a little naive and boring. But maybe you, like me, have only been roasting your root vegetables for long stretches in the oven. Maybe you’ve been boiling them to mash or adding them to gratins. Those are all good methods, they work just fine. They’re often delicious. But if you could smell the spicy turnips browning in sweet butter and hear the pop of exploding seeds. Or if you were there for the first lightly browned and bespeckled bite. Well, you might never make them another way.
Turnips with Poppyseeds
If you’re wondering how I came up with the idea of adding poppyseeds here, I’m sad to tell you that it’s not because I am absolutely brilliant. Rather, I consulted The Flavor Bible which is my go-to source for what to add when a dish needs something else and I’m not sure what it is. Oh, and since you asked, yes, there are some turnip slices on this plate of mustard and lemon roasted chicken.
Makes 4-6 servings
4 medium turnips (about 1 1/2 lbs), stems and root ends cut off, peeled, and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 stick butter (4 tbs)
1 tbs poppy seeds
1 tsp kosher salt
Heat a large frying pan, about 10-12 inches, over medium heat and add the butter. When it’s melted, add the turnip slices and the salt and cook over medium, stirring and turning the slices every few minutes. Resist the urge to turn the heat up since you might burn the butter if you do and no one wants that. The cooking should take about 15-20 minutes and the turnips are ready when they’re soft and sligthly translucent and lightly browned on both sides. Stirring and turning them every few minutes will prevent them from burning on one side and staying white on the other.
When the slices are cooked through and browned to your liking, add the poppy seeds and stir the entire pan around so that each slice is evenly coated – you might be surprised how many seeds fit into a tablespoon, it’s quite a lot. Then scrape everything in the pan into a serving dish and eat immediately.
The leftover turnip slices are just as good and they’ll keep for about a week in the fridge. Just warm them up before serving – cold turnips aren’t very appetizing and bits of butter will re-solidify in the fridge which is not a pleasant texture.