Parsnip Cakes with Spring Garlic & Chile
Walking through the Union Square Greenmarket the other day (as the weather shifted from the low 40’s to the low 60’s), it felt to me that the season is being a bit ambivalent, unsure of whether it’s winter or spring. Piled high were the hearty root vegetables of the winter – rutabagas, salsify and parsnips – next to the burgeoning spring crop with lovely spring garlic and rhubarb making an appearance. I nabbed some of the spring garlic and for breakfast this Sunday created these little cakes, as an ode to this in-between season.
Parsnip is an incredibly flavorful and versatile vegetable. The flavor is somewhere between a potato and a carrot, and it’s signature sweetness works beautifully with butter, spices, and heat. Spring garlic, on the other hand, is like a two-for-one sale – garlic and green onion flavor in one! If you can’t find any, using a bit of garlic with leek or green onion works really well here too.
This recipe couldn’t be simpler or more forgiving – cook the parsnips til tender, add other ingredients, fry until golden. You could easily use potatoes instead of parsnips here if you have them on hand. I love these for breakfast with some scrambled eggs and a touch of sriracha to dip. But these could also be a great dinner side to accompany roast chicken or a nice piece of fish. A crisp bite with that sweet, creamy parsnip flavor, garlic, onion and the heat from the chilies…Enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6
2 lbs parsnips, peeled and cut into a medium dice
1-2 red and/or green chilies, finely chopped (red jalapeno, jalapeno, Thai)
2 spring garlic shoots, finely chopped (approximately 1/3 cup)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp sugar
handful of fresh herbs (chives, cilantro, parsley), roughly chopped
unsalted butter for frying
kosher salt to taste
Put diced parsnips in a pot and cover with cold water. Place over medium-high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a strong simmer and simmer until fork tender (approximately 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your dice). Drain in a colander and let air dry for a few minutes.
In a large bowl, mash parsnips with a potato masher or use a ricer to break them up. Add the chilies, spring garlic, flour, salt, sugar and herbs and mix until a uniform texture (don’t overmix though or they’ll get a tad gummy).
Heat a sauté or cast iron pan over medium heat and add butter. For the parsnip cakes, I like to use an ice cream scoop so I can be sure I get even amounts. I love to use my hands here, making a flat patty out of the parsnip mixture and then just sliding them into the pan. They don’t have to be perfectly shaped.
Fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side just to develop that nice golden crust, and work in batches if necessary to finish off the mixture. Let drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of salt while it’s hot for extra flavor.
Serve immediately. I like mine with a bit of sriracha on the side to dip.