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December 06, 2010

Salsify, smoked steelhead roe, parsley root, radish

A few things before I tell you about this dish:

1) If you're watching Top Chef All-Stars, I'm doing commentary about the show on The Washington Post's All We Can Eat blog.  I'll Tweet the direct link when it goes up every Thursday morning.

2) I'm kicking off my fourth annual fundraising campaign for Share Our Strength later this week.  Some pretty amazing and generous people have donated some fantastic giveaways for those who donate, so I'm looking forward to seeing how much money we can raise.

3) Thank you all SO MUCH for your amazing insights and advice on kitchen renovations.  Wow.  Such great ideas for what to do and what to avoid.  I got the estimate ranges back from the contractor -- who has renovated both bathrooms in my house, so he knows about all the weird structural quirks we're inevitably going to run into -- so now it's time to hunker down and save A LOT of money (oy) and hopefully get started by this time next year.

*  *  *  *  *

Now that I've completed the second salsify dish in the Alinea cookbook, I'm kind of kicking myself for not ever having cooked salsify before.  It's really, really good.  And now that I know how sticky and sappy they get when you peel them, I included rubber gloves in my mise en place this week:


I peeled the salsifies and trimmed them to 6" long and put them in this sous vide bag with butter, thyme, garlic, and a little water:



They cooked in a 180F/82C waterbath for 2 hours.  While they cooked, I made the parsely root purée.  I can't believe I've never had parsley root before.  Or, more accurately, that I've never made or consciously ordered anything with parsely root.  And just like I'm kicking myself for not embracing salsify sooner, I feel the same way about parsley root.  Why?  Because it's really, really good.


I peeled these guys and cut them into 1/2" chunks.  Raw, it tastes like parsley-flavored celery, only less bitter, but just as "green" if that makes sense.

I put the chunks into a saucepan with some cream and salt, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer for 30 minutes until the parsley root pieces were tender.


When the parsley root was done cooking, I strained them through a fine-mesh strainer, saving the hot cream.  I put the chunks into the blender, and slowly added some of the reserved cream to make a silky purée.



I strained the purée through a clean fine-mesh strainer and rewarmed it later when it was time to plate the dish.

I also braised brown and yellow mustard seeds in water, sugar, salt, and white wine vinegar by bringing it all to a boil for five minutes, then turning off the heat, covering the pot, and letting the seeds plump up as they absorbed the moisture.


Also made parsley sauce:


I blanched the parsley leaves in water and salt, then blended them on high speed in the blender with some simple syrup, salt, and Ultra-Tex 3. 




I strained it through a fine-mesh strainer into a squeeze bottle and refrigerated it until it was time to plate the dish.


The last major component to make was the smoked salmon purée.  In the food processor went the smoked salmon:


And as it was whirring away, I added some cold water, olive oil, and salt:


I strained it through a tamis into a squeeze bottle, are stored it in the refrigerator until it was time to plate the dish.

The last thing I had to do was deep fry the salsifies.  The photos of this dish in the book are beautiful.  The deep-fried salsify looks like a beautiful, golden daddy longlegs just waiting to be eaten. The book gives pretty detailed instructions on how exactly to cut the salsify to be able to render a gorgeous outcome.

And despite the fact that I am literate and can usually follow instructions, I had a hard time envisioning these cuts.  So, I stared at the now-cooked salsifies on the plate, waiting to be finished, and just tried to figure it out.



I ended up cutting them in half and then making slits in each half all the way to the center so that they'd stand up and be rounded (I hoped).  I think that's what the book meant in its instructions.  With 20/20 hindsight, I should've made a double batch of salsify so I could have practiced this a bit more and gotten it right, because I ended up with this:


I can hear you laughing.

And I hope you can hear me laughing, because it's all I could do when they ended up looking this sad and wistful when they were done.  I had to lay them on top of shot glasses to get them to take any kind of shape.  And, while I was doing that, some of them stayed in the hot oil a little too long, resulting in an unexpected and yet totally pleasureable outcome: Salsi-fries!


Man, this project can be so humbling at times.

I began plating the dish with a few blobs of the smoked salmon purée (which had the texture of mayonnaise, so, um, YUM), a tablespoon of parsley root purée, some braised mustard seeds, parsley sauce, and some fresh parsley tips.  If you're following along in the book, you'll see I didn't include the mini black radish strips.  I couldn't find a black radish anywhere, so I skipped that step altogether.

I carefully placed the salsify on the plate and microplaned fresh lemon zest on top of that, and then generously drizzled each serving with some smoked steelhead roe from BLiS:



I'd already tasted each of the components as I made them (and loved every single one on its own), so I decided to smush everything together on the plate to get a taste for how they all went together.  We all really liked this dish.  The kids at the table liked the salsi-fries and ended up dipping them into the parsley root and salmon purées.  The mustard seeds and roe added a really nice and strong textural and flavor boost to the dish, and the lemon zest bolstered the flavor of the salsify, which surprised me.  Salsify still doesn't taste like oysters to me, but rather more earthy than a potato and less bite-y than a turnip or parsnip. But the lemon zest made the salsify taste more pronounced, somehow, and really helped tie the whole dish together.

I really liked how this dish came together, but the standout element was the parsley root purée.  So much so, I went to Wegmans and bought another bunch of it and made a parsley root mash the next day.  And, I'm thinking it'd be really good in salads, and just roasted along with some potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas.

Mmmmmmmm, parsley root.... Have you ever cooked it or made anything with it?  I'm curious.  Or, have any of you tried making salsify yet?  I've got a bunch more leftover, so I'm thinking there are some salsi-fries in my future.

Up Next: Share Our Strength 2010 Fundraising Campaign

Resources: Salsify, parsley root, parsley, and smoked salmon from Wegmans; 365 butter; canola oil, thyme, and garlic from HMart; David's kosher salt; Monini olive oil; Natural by Nature heavy cream; Ultra-Tex 3 from Terra Spice; brown and yellow mustard seeds from the Takoma Park Co-op; Terra Medi white wine vinegar; BLiS smoked steelhead roe.

Music to Cook By: Kanye West; My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I've decided I don't care anymore if Kanye acts a fool in the media, because this album is excellent.  It's rare these days for an artist to release an album that I want to listen to from start to finish.  Instead, they put together an album with 3 singles that can chart, along with a bunch of filler.  That's not the case with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  His writing is better than it's ever been, and the megalomaniacal Kanye I love is back in his best form yet.

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Yes, I laughed, but it was a kind one!! Bill has done both salsify and parsley root and we loved them both. I'm partial to celery root puree myself and save the parsley root/parsnips/potatoes etc for roasting because I love their flavors cooked simultaneously. I think using the puree for a dipping sauce is a great idea by the way...nice going kids!!


I really really want some salsi-fries now. Happy Monday morning indeed!

That looks so good, and is making me crave going back to Alinea even more now. The level of detail in Achatz's cooking never ceases to amaze me.

I had never seen parsley root before I moved to Norway, so it's really interesting seeing it used in this way.

Love parsley root, called Hamburg parsley over here in the UK, I grew it last year, it makes delicious soups and is great added to casseroles

The initial salsa-fry reminded me of the illustrations of the Sawhorse from the Oz books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sawhorse), so it wasn't so much a laugh as a tiny snort followed by a nostalgic "awww."

Again a nice recipe! In the Netherlands use parslyroots quiet offten in restaurants. My favorite is also as mousseline. It's got that wonderfull terre taste but than sweeter and will go good with some truffel etc.
Salsavis ore as we call them schorseneren, is nice to bake in a little butter after you cooked them.

keep up the greatblog!

Parsley root is terrific stuff; it's a shame it's not more widely available. Same with salsify. Even though seemingly on the menu of every restaurant here in Paris, it takes some sleuthing to find salsify retail.

On the other hand, several of my local outdoor markets have chervil root, which are small, stubby, brown, sweet, and not particularly chervily. They're delicious raw, like extra-sweet and -crispy carrots, and cooking mellows that sweetness and emphasizes a nutty character. Pureed, they're especially great with fish. Well worth grabbing if you should find it.

Re the first sad and wistful fry photo, my thoughts were:

The salsify....it's alive!

It's the salsify that ate Cincinnati!

It's walking, it's talking, its a root!

Boy, this looks delish though. Roe and smoked fish get me every time.

Also, my office/regional branch head knows I like food and wine and came by a week or so ago to say "Did I tell you about our last wild weekend in Chicago? We ate at this place, it was like food performance art - Alinea. Ever heard of it?" And I could say YES I HAVE!

I've been reading your site for a long time but never commented. I always look forward to avoiding work by reading your posts! Today I was distracted enough at work that I figured I would leave a comment.

So when I make these types of dishes I always seem to have one of the ingredients sitting around for weeks afterwords. This would seem to be the case with your Parsley syrup. Have you been putting that on everything until you use it up?!

I love your comments on Kanye... my feelings exactly.

Oh and the cooking was great! I really enjoy reading your blog.

Quick note on Kanye - my son was listening to a
Wiggles song on the computer, and I had my iPod on in the room, when "Power" came on; the 4-year old stopped what he was doing, walked to the iPod, turned, came to me and said "Daddy, I like this song on your iPod"; gangsta in the making...

As I like to say, Kanye is a total d-bag, but a very talented one. I still love listening to his music, even though I think he acts like an idiot way to often in the public. Ah well.

I love the look of the deep-fried salisfy. So cool!

Big fan of salsify, and its black-skinned cousin scorzonera. And you're right, they don't taste like oysters -- closer to artichoke hearts to my tastebuds.

Gotta say, though, weird plating... ;-)

I did laugh, but in a nice way I hope! The colours of this dish look amazing and as I've just discovered how much I like salsify I might have to try this!

Is parsley root the same as parsnips?

[Nope -- very different. You might have to ask your produce department manager to order it. Not many stores carry it regularly. It looks like a parsnip version of celery root. ----CB]

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