I haven't eaten parsnips very often in my life. Based on their rare appearance in the produce section, I'll wager most people haven't either. At one time, they were highly esteemed, much more popular than carrots or potatoes. But eventually potatoes and carrots supplanted them. When I saw parsnips at the grocery store, I remembered an interesting recipe in Food & Wine pairing parsnip puree with red snapper and balsamic red onions. It turned out to be a wonderful dish. The parsnips were slightly sweet, with a slight tang that reminded me of horseradish. They tasted very good with the mild snapper and sweet balsamic red onions. An easy recipe, I prepared the parsnips and balsamic onions early in the morning and stored them in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook the fish for dinner. I've heard people complain that parsnips have a harsh flavor and woody core. I didn't find that to be the case at all. The parsnips I bought weren't tough and the flavor was mild. I look forward to eating them again.
Pan-Fried Snapper with Buttery Parsnip Puree
• 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
• Kosher salt
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• Eight 6-ounce flaky white fish fillets with skin, such as red snapper, sea bass or cod
• Freshly ground pepper
• Balsamic-Glazed Red Onions, for serving
1. In a large saucepan, cover the parsnips with cold water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer the parsnips over moderate heat until very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the parsnips well, reserving 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid.
2. In a food processor, pulse the parsnips until coarsely chopped. Add the reserved cooking liquid and 2 tablespoons of the butter and season with salt; process until smooth. Return the parsnip puree to the saucepan and keep warm. Note: I didn't add all of the reserved liquid to the parsnips. I didn't think the puree needed that much.
3. Put the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the flour; tap to remove any excess flour. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in each of 2 large nonstick skillets. Add 4 fillets to each skillet, skin side down. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes.
4. Spoon the parsnip puree onto warmed plates. Top with the fish fillets, skin side up, and serve with the Balsamic-Glazed Red Onions.
Balsamic-Glazed Red Onions
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 rosemary sprig
• Kosher salt
1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the water, balsamic vinegar, sugar and rosemary and season with salt. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Uncover the onions and simmer until the juices are syrupy, about 15 minutes longer. Discard the rosemary and serve warm.
MAKE AHEAD The onions can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.