White, purple, and pungent, the rutabaga isn’t about to overtake bacon as a menu darling. Yet this root vegetable can be rendered delicious in capable hands. Proof: We challenged three local chefs to create dishes that do exactly that. The resulting recipes are good enough to turn rutabaga skeptics into believers. (In two cases, bacon helps.)
Illustrations by Luke Wilson
Rutabaga, Squash, and Potato Dumplings
Makes 24 dumplings (4 to 6 servings)
When making these hearty winter dumplings, keep in mind that leftover filling can be served as a side dish or used as a garnish for winter squash soup.
1 delicata squash, halved
½ rutabaga (about 6 ounces), pierced with a fork
2 to 3 small potatoes (about 6 ounces), pierced with a fork
2 slices bacon, sliced lengthwise and diced
1 leek (whites only), thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
48 Shanghai-style round dumpling wrappers
1½ cups orange juice
2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large baking pan, place the squash (cut side down), rutabaga (cut side down), and potatoes in a single layer. Add about ½-inch of water and bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove the squash and return the rutabaga and potatoes to the oven. Continue to bake until the potatoes are tender (about 50 minutes) and the rutabaga is fully cooked (about 1 hour and 15 minutes). Remove the squash seeds and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Discard the skins. Peel and finely dice the potatoes and rutabaga.
2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate. In the bacon fat, sweat the leeks until tender. Stir in the squash, potatoes, rutabaga, bacon, and a splash of water, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt, remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Fold in ⅛ cup cilantro.
3. On a clean surface, line 24 wrappers cornstarch side up. Fill a small bowl with water. For each dumpling, spoon about 1½ tablespoons of filling in the center of the wrapper. With your fingertips, moisten the exposed area of the wrapper. Place a second wrapper on top and press firmly to seal. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut away the excess wrapper (optional). The dumplings can be refrigerated on a cornstarch-coated baking sheet in a single layer, covered, until ready to cook.
4. For the sauce, reduce the orange juice by half in a small pot. Whisk in butter and season with salt. Meanwhile, in batches, cook the dumplings in a large pot of boiling salted water until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to a warmed serving platter. Mix the remaining ⅛ cup cilantro into the sauce and spoon it over the top.
Chef tip: Accent the dumplings with orange slices and lime zest.
Root Vegetable Caponata
Makes 5 to 6 servings
In this winterized caponata (a sweet-and-sour Italian vegetable dish), rutabaga acts as a counterpoint to raisins and squash. Serve with roasted chicken or grilled fish.
2 thick-cut slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
1 celery root, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
½ butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
Ground black pepper
¾ cup raisins, soaked in warm water until plumped, drained
½ cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, render the bacon until it begins to crisp, 3 minutes. Stir in the onion and garlic and sweat until soft, 3 minutes. Mix in the pepper and cook 1 minute more, deglazing the pan with about 2 tablespoons water to loosen brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted, stir in the rutabaga, celery root, and squash. Season generously with salt and pepper and pour into a roasting pan.
2. Transfer to the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. To finish, mix in the raisins, pistachios, vinegar, and sugar.
Chef tip: Ditch the old, rusty vegetable peeler and pick up a Y-shaped one, which has a blade running horizontal to the handle. “Using an old-school peeler takes forever,” Izard explains. Especially on root vegetables.
Rutabaga Spice Cake
Patrick Fahy gained the confidence to try new and unusual dishes while working at the French Laundry.
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (4-ounce) stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cups peeled and grated rutabaga
¼ cup toasted walnuts or raisins (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch cake pan, shaking out excess flour.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Gradually mix in the oil and eggs. In batches, fold in the flour mixture, followed by the rutabaga and walnuts or raisins (if using).
3. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Chef tip: White chocolate pairs surprisingly well with root vegetables like rutabagas and parsnips. Fahy suggests shaving it over the cake. A pat of butter on top doesn’t hurt, either.