Rutabaga Revelation

Rutabaga sounds old-fashioned–like it belongs to the era of drawing rooms and dressing gowns. I assume it must have been popular at some point, but I can’t think of one time I’ve seen it on a dinner table or menu in my entire life. Strangely, it was readily available at my local chain grocery store. Someone must be eating it on the regular, or they would stop carrying it, but who and how remains a mystery…

Granted, it wasn’t easy to find. Compared to the bushels of broccoli and pecks of peppers, rutabaga was relegated to 1/3 of a bin shared with turnips and parsnips. The produce department did put the parsnips in the middle so customers could more easily distinguish between the turnips and rutabaga. However, once out of context at checkout, they were mistakenly rung up as turnips. The Eastern European checker was flummoxed when I insisted rutabagas were, in fact, a separate vegetable. In the end, my receipt said “Miscellaneous Produce” because she wasn’t about to hold up the line while searching the system for a fictional variety of turnip.

Given that rutabaga has fallen out of favor, I wasn’t expecting to find a lot of recipes featuring it. Thus, I was thrilled to run across Rutabaga Puff Casserole on The Spruce Eats. Not only was rutabaga the star ingredient, but I would also learn a brand-new method of preparation. Vegetable souffle? Tell me more!

I was also intrigued by the addition of dill. I didn’t even own dill. Honestly, I couldn’t remember whether I’d ever had it before, and I certainly would not have been able to describe its flavor. I really got a lot of mileage out of this one very basic recipe!

It calls for peeled, cooked, and mashed rutabaga. It seemed to be essentially the same process as mashed potatoes, so I used the same implements and technique. Peeling was a little trickier since rutabagas are rounder and harder to hold than potatoes (especially the little ones!), and dicing was a challenge because they are so dense. However, once I got them boiling, I figured it was smooth sailing. Unfortunately, smooth wasn’t what I got, even though I boiled those buggers for way longer than the recipe suggested. I realize now that I should have pulled out the big guns and stick blended them, but my head was stuck in potato-land thinking they’d whip up easily in my stand mixer. Live and learn, right?

After smashing and seasoning, the rutabaga is folded over whipped egg whites to create the “puff” in Puff Casserole. Fortunately, Sous Chef Christina was on hand to ensure the stiffness of my peaks. She regaled me with tales of Austrian food and the superfluity of leavening in European baking. I was glad to have her expertise in the kitchen, otherwise I’m pretty sure my final product would have been sadly deflated. Instead, we created utter puff-fection!

Utter Puff-ection!

My photography doesn’t do it justice. Even now, I’m still trying to conjure words to describe the experience. The texture was indeed light and airy (except for the occasional lump), and the flavor was buttery and dill-y. I was expecting pickle, but it was simply dill-icious. I’m sorry, but the pun is earned–the dill was genuinely tasty and uniquely itself. The rutabaga was a complementary vehicle, and it all just worked. This is one dish that goes into the permanent file for frequent rotation!

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