Caramelized Japanese Turnips

Turnips. Growing up I hated these – bitter, mushy, gross.  My Mom, sweet Southern lady that she is, would cook them for HOURS along with the greens.   I was certain I would hate them forever but there they were at the Farmer’s Market – small, delicate, unblemished.  They certainly know how to market themselves.  I decided I’d give them another try and I have to say, I’m a convert.  Japanese turnips are small, delicate, sweet and amazing.  I can’t get enough of these.  This quick and easy side dish will have you picking some up every time you visit the Farmer’s Market. The key is to cook them just until fork-tender.  They are slightly bitter and for some that’s off-putting but I love their earthy flavor and bit of bite. These make a great side for roasted chicken or pork. In their natural state toss them into beef stew instead of potatoes. If you can’t get the smaller Japanese turnips, regular turnips work just as well. Enjoy!

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2 bunches (or about 1 lb) of Japanese turnips or regular turnips, as small as you can get (golf ball sized is ideal)
1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 Tbs. butter
1/8 c. mirin or white wine sweetened with 1/4 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of honey (optional)

1) Cut the stems off the turnips.  Also cut off the greens, if the turnips have them, leaving about 1/2 inch of stalk attached to the turnip.
2) Slice the turnips in half, lengthwise. IMG_0180-001
3) Heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pan, I use cast iron, large enough to place the turnips cut side down in a single layer.
4) Once the pan is hot, add turnips and turn heat down to medium.
5) Do not turn the turnips for 5 minutes, but do peek to make sure they’re browning nicely and not proceeding straight to burning.  Pierce the turnips with a fork.  You want the fork to easily pierce the flesh of the turnip, with the tines going at least to the middle of the turnip.  If there’s any resistance at all continue cooking in 1 min increments.  Once the turnips are tender pour in the liquid. Remove from the heat. Stir giving all the turnips a bath in the mirin. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the honey if using. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Turnip Greens: Generally the turnips at the market have the greens attached and I just can’t bear to waste them. Warning: they are bitter. Some suggest a pinch of sugar added while cooking helps to mellow them a bit. I eat these either along with the turnips or they are good stirred into pasta with lots of parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

1Tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar, optional

1) Give the greens a good rinse and cut off the really tough bottom stems.
2) Heat oil in a small saucepan and add 1 clove garlic, chopped. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant add the greens and stir to coat with the garlic oil.
3) Reduce heat and cook about 6 minutes until wilted. Add sugar if using. If the pan becomes too dry add 1Tbs water.

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