I love parsnip. Don’t you?
I don’t grow parsnips (not that I have not meant too…): mostly it’s because I run out of garden-bed space when I would need to direct-seed it. And parsnip holds on its real estate for a long time as it requires a long growing season — so do I grow parsnips? or do I grow a crop of lettuce? followed by bean? followed again by fall & winter greens? oh, and did I mention voles?
So until I have a special parsnip growing box like Deirdre Armstrong ( who has a “parsnip palace” built out of corrugated metal, hog panels and a few feet of compost), I will buy parsnips. They are fairly easy to find, inexpensive and like carrots, keep well in the fridge. A creamed-colored sturdy and homey root, parsnips look like white carrots (to which they are related). Their natural sweetness makes them a favorite for roasting (chunks roasted by themselves or mixed with other root vegetables) or for cream dishes (slices layered in a potato gratin or mashed with potatoes).
Parsnip particularly shines in soup. I offer here the “rich” version with chicken broth and cream. Water can be used and cream omitted for a leaner (but still flavorful) soup (that then becomes vegetarian or vegan). The soup freezes beautifully, so don’t hesitate to make a big batch.
- a few tablespoons of EVOO (or butter)
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
- 2 medium leeks (with a long shaft), white and pale green parts thinly sliced, and thoroughly washed of grits
- 4 large parsnips, trimmed, peeled, and sliced in 1/2″ chunks
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed in 1/2″ chunks (keep immersed in a bowl of cold water until ready to use to prevent oxidation)
- 2 +/- quarts of good quality chicken broth, preferably homemade *
- 1 to 2 cups heavy cream**
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Optional: ground spices to sprinkle if desired such as curry, nutmeg, cayenne.
Heat up the fat in a thick bottom Dutch oven. Add onions and leeks, and sweat for 30 minutes: that is, gently sauté them until they are very limp and translucent; they should not brown. Stir often early on, then turn the heat down to very low.
Add parsnips, potatoes and just enough broth to cover all. Bring to boil, cover, lower heat and simmer until parsnip is tender.
Process in the blender with additional broth until very smooth. Add more broth/water as desired. Add cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Heat up gently and serve hot with a sprinkling of spices.
* replace with water for a vegetarian or vegan soup
** omit altogether for a vegan version