Turnip Custard

I had to try turnips several times before I got sold on them. 

The first time I cooked one was many years ago when one of my daughters was studying vocabulary words for the SATs. We had eaten a turnip dish a couple of nights before, one that we thought smelled and tasted rotten and I told her that the best hint for the word “noisome,” if that should ever come up on the exam, was to remember that turnip recipe.

It didn’t. But everyone in the family knows what the word noisome means.

Anyway, years passed. When you’re a food writer you have to eat stuff you may not like and experiment with ingredients and recipes, some of which you might not like. All part of the learning process.

And I learned that smaller turnips are not at all harsh, smelly or bitter. In fact, they can add a nice touch as a side dish during the winter.

I’ve made dozens of turnip dishes since the SAT time. Here’s one we all like. Another good thing about it — you can prepare it ahead a day or so and pop it in the oven just before serving.

Turnip Custard

1-1/2 pounds turnips, peeled and diced

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 cup half and half cream, light cream or whole milk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup packed fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the turnip dice in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the turnip is tender. Drain the water from the pan. Mash the turnips. Add salt and pepper to taste; add the nutmeg and mix ingredients. Beat the cream and egg together, add to the turnips and blend ingredients thoroughly. Place the mixture in a casserole dish. Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the breadcrumbs and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned. Scatter the breadcrumbs over the turnip mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until hot. Makes 6 servings