This being the winter doldrums, at least as far as fresh produce is concerned, my posts normally decline in quantity this time of year. This winter of near-blizzards is no exception, but the weekend before last caused me to alter my opinion, slightly, about a root vegetable I've regularly slighted: the humble rutabaga, a.k.a. Swede, a.k.a. Yellow Turnip.
The cause of my conversion is the delicately-flavored smallish specimens which have been on sale at the Reading Terminal Market's Fair Food Farmstand since the onset of winter. They hail from Vermont's Deep Root Organics. a cold storage coop on the northern climes of the Green Mountain State.
Along with parsnips from the same coop and supermarket "baby" carrots, they became the vegetable component of a Valentine's Day dinner I composed for my Valentine, who has always held the rutabaga in high esteem (must be her Scandinavian heritage). I cut the veggies into half-inch dice, tossed with a minimum coating of olive oil, along with a little thyme, salt, pepper, a scant teaspoon of sugar (to encourage browning) and roasted them in the oven.
To my amazement, the rutabaga actually tasted good! Maybe it was the sugar, maybe it was the roasting, since my previous encounters with rutabagas had always been simply mashed with butter. But these roasted rutabagas had a more subtle countenance than the mash, so that the flavor note I previously found offensive became appealing. Will wonders never cease?
The veggies accompanied filet mignon, a cut she enjoys but I rarely prepare for myself because of its lack of flavor compared to other cuts of steaks, though its tenderness is always to be admired. This beef came from Harry Ochs, and the combination of high quality beef and the method of preparation made it a hit, even with me. I simply seared it in a pan, three minutes on a side over medium high heat to get a nice char (not disturbing the meat except once, to turn turn it), then finished it off in a 450F oven for another four minutes for medium, my Valentine's preferred doneness. While it rested on a warm platter under foil, I made a pan reduction with cream sherry finishing with a small knob of butter. Although I prefer my steaks rarer, this retained just enough pinkness to remind it came from a living thing, and had great flavor.
Dessert was a sampling of truffles from Neuchatel Chocolates of Oxford, Pennsylvania, every bit as good as any truffle we've had. The creations from Swiss chocolatier Albert Lauber can be had at the Pennsylvania General Store.