|Curry Parsnip Chips|
|Features - The Craft of Cooking|
|Written by Jon Ross-Wiley|
When I think of spring in New England, parsnips don't readily jump to mind as something I look forward to. Usually, these root vegetables find their way into my kitchen during the fall and winter months when I am craving a hearty stew or roasted vegetable side dish.
So, then, why parsnips in May? Simple. One of my favorite, "go-to" spots for fresh local produce, City Feed and Supply, had them and they looked good.
When I am out and about shopping, the ingredients inform my cooking decisions, and I encourage you to try this method on for size as well. Not only will this keep you from being disappointed when the market doesn't have all the ingredients needed for a recipe you'd like to try, it will allow you to select the produce or meat that is the freshest and looks the best that day. The payoff is worth the gamble. Fresh ingredients require less technique to taste delicious, and, in fact, it is often true that the simplest treatments will result in the best tasting dish.
In this case, I looked at the parsnips on a sunny Sunday, and thought, "What can I do with these tonight?" Stews, braises, and roasts didn't feel appropriate given the weather, so I decided to ask myself another question that is often asked by local/seasonal food lovers and consumers; "What other foods are similar in temperament to the item in front of me?"
Once you start to get a handle on how different foods respond to cooking techniques, you can substitute freely, which can be completely liberating. I recall the first time a saw romanesco at the farmers' market. I asked for suggestions, and heard in response, "Think broccoli...just a little more delicate." With that, a whole slew of ideas came to mind as to what I could do with it simply because broccoli is something I've cooked hundreds of times. With the parsnips, I decided to think "potato meets carrot." That would be my baseline.
Moments later, the idea of homemade chips came to mind. It was when I got home that I, again, looked for inspiration using what was in front of me. I knew that I wanted to add some flavor to the parsnips while also adding some color. A quick scan of the spice cabinet included paprika, chili powder, tumeric, curry, and cayenne pepper. I am only realizing now as I write this how I made my decision. On my walk around town, and ultimately to City Feed, I was always no more than 1,000 feet from a terrific Indian restaurant in Jamaica Plain called Bukhara. The smells that emanate from there are tantalizingly good. I can't imagine living in one of the houses within a block of it. Danger. Anyway, it was that experience, I believe, that led me to choose curry for my chips.
I peeled my parsnips, sliced them thinly on a mandoline (a sharp knife and some patience would do the trick as well), and dropped them into a small saucepan of hot canola oil. (Note: I use small saucepan when I have the time to do multiple batches to reduce the amount of oil needed to submerge the items being fried.) Once browned, a fished them out with a slotted spoon, placed them on paper towels, and sprinkled them with kosher salt and curry powder. Easy and delicious.
This is what Local In Season is all about. Being inspired by what the farmers are bringing to the market, and making the ingredients work for you in the kitchen. As always, "Better food is the reason."