We have been enjoying an abundance of the white salad turnip Hakurei. Similar in appearance to a radish, this flat-round, smooth, white root is sweet and fruity with a crisp and tender texture. Best harvested when they are no larger than 2 inches in diameter, their snappy bite increases with size.
Traditionally eaten raw, either out of hand or chopped in salads, the hakurei dark, green hairless tops can also be eaten raw or lightly cooked. I’ve become creative in utilizing the seemingly endless supply in our vegetable share each week; roasting them, pickling them in a rice vinegar brine, and now, making a Hakuriei Turnip Gratin.
This recipe comes to me from Amanda at King Hill Farm in Penobscot. Her two year-old son Gus loves to eat salad turnips, preferring the sweet center over the more spicy outside. The gratin is prepared entirely on the stovetop, eliminating the need to run the oven and keeping the kitchen cool.
One damp and foggy night when a touch of heat was welcome in the house, I did the more traditional oven preparation. The kitchen was lightly perfumed with the rich scent of thyme and basil, and the gratin was golden and bubbly. Served with a juicy, grass-fed steak from the grill and perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced and topped with sea salt, fresh pepper, olive oil and crumbled sheep’s milk feta cheese, Hakurei Turnip Gratin completed this classic summer meal.
Hakurei Turnip Gratin
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 bunch Hakurei turnips (about 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme (chopped fresh basil is nice too)
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (no stock? Try tomato juice)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet with a lid, melt the butter. Wash the turnips (no need to peel), and cut them into ¼ inch slices. Layer the slices in the pan and sprinkle the slices with the herbs, spices and salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, then pour on the heavy cream and stock on the top. Cover and cook until the turnips are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the cover and bring to a boil to reduce the liquid. When most of the liquid has been reduce and the sauce is thick, sprinkle the top with cheese and cook until the cheese is melted. Makes four servings.