Every time I roast a rutabaga, I mentally thank Bill Maxwell, of Maxwell Farms. He was the one who suggested, then cajoled, then finally insisted that I try rutabagas again when I hadn’t had one in years. “They’re so sweet I don’t know why people aren’t going crazy for them,” he said, motioning to a milk crate brimming with the waxy vegetables. “Because they’re hard to cut and then when you cook them don’t taste like anything,” I said. “Those must have been old and overgrown. Just try one of these and tell me what you think,” he said, pressing a pineapple-sized specimen into my hands.
Bill suggested I boil it, mash it, and serve it with caramelized onions. I went home and roasted it instead. I’d read online that roasted rutabaga was the ideal way to cook the vegetable, caramelizing its juices and enhancing its sweetness. And Bill was right, the rutabaga was wonderful – soft, mellow, browned around the edges, and tasting a little like roasted butternut squash with a pleasantly sharp, turnipy edge.
Since that day, I roast rutabagas all the time, often glazed with a little maple syrup or honey to help deepen the browning. In this recipe, I’ve added a pinch of chili for a spicy kick, but the rutabaga is good without it, too, and perhaps more appropriate if you’re feeding small children. The one thing I haven’t done yet is to try Bill’s recipe for a rutabaga mash. But I will soon, now that his rutabaga authority has been so firmly established.
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the rutabaga, oil, syrup, salt, and cayenne; toss well to combine. Spread the rutabaga in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the rutabaga is tender and dark golden, about 40 minutes.
Like turnips, rutabagas are sometimes an acquired taste. If you’re still getting used to it, you can substitute some of the rutabaga for potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or whatever other root vegetables you are into at the moment.
If you haven’t worked with rutabagas before, they are a little bit more watery than most root vegetables. I think this gives them a refreshing feel, even when roasted, but it does mean that you probably won’t achieve that totally crisp, dark brown crust you usually get on roasted vegetables. A nice golden hue is just about right. The maple syrup will also help caramelize them a bit.