Not Your Nana's Rotmos

September 24, 2011
Author Notes

If you looked up the word “lowly” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of a turnip. It is the petite syrah of root vegetables, garnering little, if any, respect. Indeed, when turnips are invoked, it is usually something along the lines of “sleazy white trash with the IQs of turnips” (from a movie review of Natural Born Killers) or, from this one website, “Clients will not return to someone who may exhibit great skills as an Esthetician but has the personality of a turnip!” No one ever called a turnip noble, or inspiring, or penned a poem about one. True, the poet Sappho reportedly called one of her lovers “Gongýla” - ancient Greek for turnip - and Tolstoy did write a short story called “The Enormous Turnip,” but it involved peasants. To make matters worse, what my Irish-Swedish family calls turnips are actually not turnips at all, but rutabagas, which many people also refer to as yellow turnips (or swedes) and which some people use in the thrilling sport of rutabaga curling. (I am not making this up: We prefer to eat them rather than fling them, although after enough pinot grigio my family can be persuaded to do most anything, including welcoming this version of Nana's Rotmos instead of the cheese-laced, heavy cream-soused, cinnamon-sprinkled version we grew up with. —wssmom

  • Serves 8
  • Thyme-scented Bechamel
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • healthy pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • Mashed Swedes
  • 2 softball-sized rutabagas, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock or water
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes (you can so totally leave this out, it's only in there for Nana's sake)
  • chunk of butter (maybe 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • nutmeg and pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions or leeks, sauteed in olive oil until crispy (maybe 20-30 minutes) and drained on paper towels
In This Recipe
  1. Thyme-scented Bechamel
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a smallish saucepan along with the garlic clove, and when the butter stops foaming remove the garlic clove and stir in the flour.
  3. Heat the milk until just shy of boiling, either in another small saucepan or in the microwave, along with the sprigs of thyme.
  4. To the roux add the hot milk, a little at a time and whisking constantly, and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Fish out the thyme sprigs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  1. Mashed Swedes
  2. Put the rutabagas and carrots in a big saucepan, cover with the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer about 20 minutes, then add the potato if using and simmer another 10 minutes or until you can easily put the tip of a paring knife through one of rutabagas. Drain, mash and stir in the butter, Aleppo pepper and the salt.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and, using a hand mixer, beat in the reserved Bechamel. Check and adjust seasonings, adding a bit more nutmeg and pepper as desired. Top with crispy onions or leeks.
  4. If you have any Swedes in your family, make sure to serve with plenty of pinot grigio.

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