Turnip and thyme gratin
I cooked a lot of potatoes in culinary school. Our instructor was so in love with spuds that we even had an entire week devoted to cooking them every which way (and there are a lot of ways). While I didn't care to see another potato for awhile after that week of class, I couldn't stop thinking about the gratin we made. Creamy, cheesy, carby — classic French gratins are the definition of comfort food.
So when a large shipment of misshaped turnips turned up on my doorstep from Imperfect Produce, the first place my mind went was gratin. Surely, with a little experimenting, I could make a healthier version with these high-fiber, vitamin-packed root vegetables. Though most of the calories from turnips still come from carbohydrates, it's lower than other tubers in the same category since they contain more water. Plus, they just seem healthier, since neither my husband nor two-year-old will eat them served any way.
I made a simpler version of the classic gratin I learned in culinary school, with a little added spice and some herbs to elevate these sweet, humble (if not homely) little turnips butts. Creamy, yet light, this is the best way I've found to eat turnips yet. And, though healthier(ish), it's surprisingly comforting. My girl ate an entire serving. K binged on it after a night out with the boys. It's a keeper.
This is when you want to own a mandolin, if you don't already. Getting the turnips as thin and even as possible is what you're going for to ensure they all cook at the same rate. Also, this dish can be as low- or high-calorie as you want. You can choose low-fat milk (just don't do skim) and skip the heavy cream. It's meant to be a side dish, so don't go eating it for your entire meal (or do, I won't judge.) Either way, it should hit all the right spots.
SERVES 4-6 AS A SIDE
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 pounds turnips, thinly sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
2 cups milk (your choice on 1% vs 2%)
1/2 cup cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
One pinch ground Cayenne pepper
One pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Heat the oven to 400°F. Rub half of the butter on a 2-quart baking or gratin dish.
Place the sliced turnips in a bowl and season with the salt and a generous grind of pepper. Layer the slices around the gratin dish.
In a bowl, add half of the Gruyere, milk, cream, garlic, oregano, thyme, cayenne and nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Pour over the turnips in the dish. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere on top. Chop the remaining butter, and put that on top, too.
Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and return the dish to the oven. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the turnips are soft and the cheese is browned on top. Remove from the oven and garnish with the parsley.