Normally found in a bin somewhere near the potatoes in the market, this result of crossing a cabbage with a white turnip has been a family favorite ever since the day my mom pronounced to her freshly-met New England in-laws that ‘we only feed these to pigs at home!”
The secret of a good rutabaga is in the preparation – forget the cream, the roasting, the ever-loving nutmeg(!) – all you need is a bit of time and one simple rule: boil it in sugar, then mash it with salt and butter.
A note on peeling: the skin of a rutabaga is waxed and kind of thick, so forget about using a vegetable peeler, bring out the big knife – my pepé used to use a knife and a hammer, but that could’ve just been family tradition.
Place the cubed rutabaga in a medium sauce pan and sprinkle with the sugar.
Cover with water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rutabaga is tender – this is not a fast-cooking veggie.
Drain, return to the pot, then add a tablespoon or two of butter and some salt and mash. Taste, then add more salt, if needed – the taste should be kind of earthy and sweet, but with a back note of bitter – and I always end up using more salt than I would normally think to use.
That’s it! Perfectly done rutabaga – and Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving in my family without them. Still – you don’t need a turkey and all the trimmings to enjoy is underloved veggie – just a little time and that sugar, butter, and salt.
If you’re feeling adventuresome, try cutting a raw rutabaga into sticks and serving it on a veggie platter with dip; not too, too bad!