My daughter Molly believes there’s no better food in the world than mashed potatoes. Pillowy, buttery and easy to eat, it’s true that mashed potatoes play well with meals featuring the big roasts we’re all eating right now and the wintery, comfort food meals we’ll be relying on until spring.
It’s easy to get hooked on mashed potatoes. Especially when the potatoes are heirloom varieties. Still, there’s a whole world of root vegetables that make wonderful purées–one of the beautiful cooking lessons the French have taught us.
So, during the season when root vegetables and tubers have their day in the sun, why limit yourself to just one?
3 more root vegetables to mash
Part of a much longer list, these are my top three favorite favorite root vegetables to purée. All of them are uncelebrated, but I think they deserve a special place at the table.
Every Sunday dinner growing up, my grandmother cooked turnips in her pressure cooker until they practically fell apart and then loaded on the butter. I love to mash turnips with brown butter—made simply by heating melted butter until it turns amber colored and smells nutty. I love how the butter takes the edge off the turnips mild bitterness.
Sweeter than carrots, parsnips are one of the few crops that overwinter here to produce our first spring produce. But I can’t wait that long to use these versatile and mild-flavored roots, that I often mash with mild spices, like toasted and ground coriander, as a counterpoint to their sweetness.
Celery root (aka celeriac):
If you’ve ever traveled to France you’d find this gnarly root vegetable in everything from salad (yes, you can eat this one raw) to soup. I tend to follow the French in flavoring celery root purée very simply using stock, cream, salt and pepper.
All of these vegetables can be prepared just like mashed potatoes, by simmering them in well salted water for 25 to 30 minutes (or until fork tender), then steam-dried in the pot to remove all the excess water before mashing or puréeing.
And, you can combine any of these with a Russet potato or two, which will lighten the texture with its starchiness. So even committed mashed potato devotees will want to give them a try.
How to mash root vegetables
Molly recently discovered the potato ricer for making the fluffiest mashed potatoes possible. This is the best convenience, since mashing potatoes in a food processor or mixer can make them gummy.
But, with these other root vegetables, there’s no danger in using a food processor, immersion blender or other electric labor-saving tool. Even when you add in some potato, whir away to get a silken texture with no worries.
Of course, you can use an old-fashioned masher for a chunkier texture. I just go for smooth, myself.
Hot tip: keep your mash or purée warm
When I’m making a big meal or entertaining, I don’t like to leave mashing potatoes or any other vegetable to the last minute. So here’s an easy way to keep any mashed or puréed vegetable warm.
Transfer the purée into a metal bowl and set it over a pan of hot or barely simmering water. Press a piece of foil or parchment paper onto the surface of the mash or purée and this will prevent a crust from forming. You can keep the vegetables warm for as long as you need with this method.
Maybe even while you walk away from the kitchen and have some fun with your guests or your kids. I’m planning to do both!
Garlic Celery Root Purée
Bringing in the flavor of celery root with the lightness of mashed potato, this purée is a simple, unassuming side dish. But, it tends to "wow" people who have never experienced celery root before. Serve it in place of mashed potatoes, or on its own with sautéed greens.
- 1 1/2 pound celery root
- 1 large Russet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock or water
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Wash the celery root, then peel it with a sharp vegetable peeler or a knife to remove all of outer layers until there is only the smooth cream-colored flesh. Slice the celery root into slices 1 inch thick and then into cubes.
Put the celery root and the potato into a sauce pan. Add the stock, 1 teaspoon of the salt, garlic and bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil and then simmer until the celery root and the potato are fork tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Strain the vegetables well (reserve this liquid for soup). Reserve the garlic, but discard the bay leaf. Put the celery root, potatoes, garlic, butter, sour cream, if using, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor.
Puree until the mixture is very smooth. Taste for seasoning and either serve immediately or keep warm by transferring the puree into a metal bowl and setting it over a pot of simmering water with foil or parchment paper pressed down onto the surface to prevent drying.
Leftover celery root purée becomes a lovely soup--one of the most popular uses for this root vegetable in European cuisines. Just add the reserved broth, milk, cream or a combination to get the consistency you like and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.