Lord knows a turnip is an odd creature. It's a hard root vegetable with a tough purple mottled skin and a striking white interior. Not likely to induce convulsions of pleasure on first glance for most. But baked and bathed in bechamel sauce? Mmmmmm, now we're talking.
Turnip Gratin marks a fabulous way to introduce and eventually transform this unknown ugly into a shining beauty. The turnip tastes slightly sweet and potato-ey, and seems light-making it a perfect foil for creamy, decadent bechamel. Like most root vegetables, turnips benefit from roasting or baking, to fully develop the flavors.
We ate turnip gratin at MarketBar in the Ferry Building on Sunday night with a group of writers, artists, an architect, art dealer, film makers, and other interesting folks. I didn't know what to expect from the salon put on by an in-the-know local writer. Would we be judged on our ability to regurgitate New Yorker and San Francisco Chronicle story lines? Not to worry.
Conversation topics ranged from George Bush rants, the definition of co-ed, how to kill a trout in a European kitchen (wrap in a towel and smash the head on a counter), to facial hair grooming for men and whether or not men should have pre-conceived notions about what to visually expect in their lovers nether regions... as in, is a Brazilian wax all that? I didn't miss our usual HBO-centric Sunday night too much by keeping up with this group.
The full menu, served family style, also included:
Castelvetrano Olives-plump, meaty, green, with a tangy sweet finish.
Yucaipa Farms Fava Bean Crostini, Parmigiano Reggiano-fresh, seasonal, balanced.
Roasted Beet & Little Gem Salad, green goddess dressing-classic, earthy, good.
English Pea Ravioli, porcini mushroom sauce-just one is not enough
Roasted Hawaiian Walu, carrot puree, black olive relish-the bright orange carrots looked and tasted sweet and flavorful.
Chenin Blanc, Bonny Doon, California, 2004-refreshing white, perfect for a warm evening and long meal. I can't help but remember my childhood friend named chenin blanc after the wine her parents consumed when she was created. TMI at a young age, for sure.
Veronese, Pallazzo Della Torre, Italy, 2001
Sumer Berry Crisp, vanilla ice cream
I am determined to use turnip in a home cooked dish soon. Until then, the gratin beauty memory lingers.