Tuber vegetables or les tubercules abound in markets this time of the year. Some tubers really resemble the gnarled and earthy roots that they are- salsify, celeriac, and scorzonera come to mind- while other forms may be more familiar and palatable to us, like sweet potatoes, radish, and carrots.
I've written about tubers throughout the chilly seasons of autumn and winter, such as beets, turnips, and rutabaga. I've also fallen for a few new favorites - enjoying parsnips several times a week and finding sunchokes at restaurants in San Francisco and the markets of Paris.
Over the past few months it has been rare that I leave a market without a selection of tubers tucked in with my winter greens and seasonal apples and pears. Some more recent tuber sightings include the cerefeuil tubereux, or tuberous chervil and the persil tubereux, or tuberous parsley- two varieties that are popular in France and apparently difficult to find outside the hexagon.
It seems only natural to take advantage of having such a rare vegetable within our reach, so I picked up a few of the tuberous chervil variety when I had the occasion.
When asking producteurs how to prepare a tubercule their suggestions are simple and center on traditional winter dishes such as potages and purées.
However, take note: soups and mashes may not be suitable to every tuber (salsify soup? mashed beets?) so check some sources to see what is the best application for the tuber at hand. This is a general overview some tubers you may find while shopping in Paris markets, but the recipes that follow will be more suited to certain types, such a potato and parsnip variety or a mixture of these varieties with a selection of other tubers such as the tuberous chervil or tuberous parsley.
For me, there is nothing more comforting than mashed root veggies, be it basic potatoes or another (t)uber-French variety, purées bring the warmth I'm missing on these rainy days.
In times of great need, I will also whip up a batch of gravy that I perfected in my college days, and add it atop my mountain of mashed root veg. If you want to give it the old college try, I've added my recipe here (I was vegan then & used margarine in place of butter- but the recipe below includes butter).
A few notes: Use a rough brush when cleaning tubers- especially the gnarly root varieties- dirt can cling to the skin and creep in the crevices, so spend some time washing these veggies before preparing them.
I found tuberous chervil at the Marché St. Eustache-Les Halles, where it was outrageously expensive (€39,80/kilo !!). I have seen other varieties of similar tuber varieties, such as the tuberous parsley at my local biocoop and a handful of markets, so I think you can find a more reasonably priced elsewhere.
What: Les Tubercules, (Tubers)
When: February 14, 2013
Where: A market near you
How: Carefully wash you tuber to remove all dirt. To make a purée you can either follow the instructions for my Parsnip and Rutabage Purée, or you can omit the broth and simply bring your tuber to a boil in salted water, cook until tender, drain (leaving some water in reserve) and then mix with a hand mixer, adding butter and leftover salted water until you have the desired consistency.
If you are making a hearty purée, with potatoes or parsnips for example, you can serve it with this nutritional yeast fortified gravy:
Simple Vegetarian Gravy
1 1/2 cup miso (use a miso cube to make the stock)
2 tbsps butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 tbsps flour (more as needed)
2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1) Heat up butter. Once melted, add chopped onions and cook until just brown, 2-3 minutes.
2) Whisk in your 2 tbsps of flour, stir until combined- keep stirring to avoid burning the mixture.
3) Slowly add boiling miso broth. Stir as you add.
4) If the gravy isn't thick enough, you can stir in more flour until you've reached the desired thickness.
5) Stir in soy sauce followed by nutritional yeast flakes.
6) Serve hot, atop or aside your tuber purée.